Tag Archives: Rob Boyd

Remembering Whistler’s Downhill World Cups

This year marks a few important anniversaries for ski racing on Whistler Mountain: it has been 40 years since the ski hill almost hosted the World Cup in 1979 before it was cancelled due to weather and safety concerns, and it is 30 years since Rob Boyd became the first Canadian male to win a World Cup downhill event on Canadian soil.

Local boy Rob Boyd atop the podium, 25 February 1989. Photo: Greg Griffith/WMAS.

Whistler Mountain also held other successful World Cup events in the 1980s and ’90s starting with a World Cup downhill in 1982.

By the last week of February 1982, Whistler had undergone some major changes since a World Cup was last attempted in 1979.  Blackcomb Mountain opened for skiing in 1980, giving Whistler Mountain nearby competition, and the first phase of Whistler Village construction was, for the most part, wrapped up.

The course for this World Cup downhill was changed as well.  Rather than follow the traditional route that used what is now known as Dave Murray Downhill ending in Creekside, the 1982 course ended in Whistler Village.

The Molson World Downhill came to Whistler, bringing thousands of spectators along with it.  Whistler Question Collection, 1982.

The new 3,810-metre course was expected to result in a winning time in the two-minutes-and-15-seconds range.  Racers began near the top of the Black and Orange Chairs and then headed down through the Double Trouble rollers, the Pony Trail Flats, Tokum Corner, the Elevator Shaft, across Crabapple Creek and to the finish line in view of the spectators waiting in the village.

There was more to Whistler’s 1982 World Cup than raceday on Saturday.  The opening ceremonies began the festivities on Wednesday, February 24 and included a parade of nations complete with flags and local dignitaries.  The following evening was Western Night.  The scheduled events included a display of logger sports such as axe-throwing and chainsaw demonstrations and a square-dancing demonstration for the national teams.  The Lil’wat Nation also hosted an outdoor salmon barbecue.  The Friday evening before the race was a more casual affair with a torchlight ski parade and fireworks display.

A torchlight parade makes its way down Whistler Mountain.  Whistler Question Collection, 1982.

According to The Vancouver Sun, prior to Saturday the weather was “the most-discussed element of the whole affair.”  Days of fog and fresh snow leading up to the race meant great conditions for those skiing on the rest of Whistler Mountain but these conditions weren’t great for training runs, causing delays and cancelled practices.  Luckily, on Saturday and weather cooperated and, for the first time on Whistler, the World Cup downhill could go ahead.

Going into the race, the two racers to watch were thought to be Steve Podborski of the Crazy Canucks and Austrian Harti Weirather, the 1981 World Cup downhill champion.  The race was, however, won by Swiss skier Peter Mueller, a two-time World Cup downhill champion (the 1982 season ended with a tie for the title between Mueller and Podborski).

At the awards ceremony after the race on Saturday, the cheers for Mueller were reported to be just as loud as those for the Crazy Canucks.  Mueller appeared to enjoy his second trip to Whistler, having first come to the valley one a five-week camping tour of Western Canada in the 1970s.  When speaking of the area’s hospitality, he told reporters that, “The people here are so friendly.  They come up to me and say, ‘Hi Pete,’ even if they don’t know me.  I would really like to come back here.”

Whistler’s 1982 World Cup was not an unqualified success to everyone.  According to Doug Sack in Whistler Magazine some teams “loathed the new course.”  It ended too slowly, passing over the flats of Lower Olympic, and one Austrian was even heard to say “I should have brought my cross-country skis with me.”

Whistler Mountain hosted more World Cup downhills after 1982, using the Dave Murray Downhill course.  If you’re interested in learning more about Whistler’s World Cups and what it takes to organize and pull off such an event, join us at the Whistler Museum for our next Speaker Series on Thursday, March 29 with guests Rob Boyd and Alex Kleinman.

Whistler’s World Cups

Whistler’s first World Cup was set to be held on Whistler Mountain in 1979 and in the past four decades Whistler has gone on to host many high profile events, including Rob Boyd’s win in 1989.  We’ll be hearing about what went into putting on these races, what it was like to experience the multi-day events and how one run became a celebrated moment in our town’s history with guests including Boyd and Alex Kleinman.

Celebrating Whistler’s World Cup Downhill Races

Historically, in the month of March, Whistler would be hosting a World Cup Downhill event.  Up to 500 weasel workers would be working 12-hour days preparing the racecourse, installing safety nets and removing and moving snow throughout the course.  These volunteers were as important to the success of the event as the downhill racers themselves.

Thousands of ski-race fans would descend on Whistler, filling up hotels and making reservations a necessity to eat at many of the world-class restaurants in Whistler Village.  Pubs and bars would be full to capacity and the village would be enshrouded in a party-like atmosphere for close to two weeks.

Whistler attempted to host its first World Cup race on March 7, 1979.  Due to weather, the race was cancelled.  Three years later, in 1982, Whistler successfully hosted the World Cup Downhill event.  This race took place on a course on the north side of Whistler and its finish was in the newly completed Whistler Village.

Peter Müller of Switzerland finished in first place and two Crazy Canucks, Steve Podborski and Dave Irwin, finished second and third, respectively.  The 1982 race was capped off with a huge celebration because Podborski tied Müller for the overall Downhill World Cup title.

Thousands upon thousands of spectators jam Whistler Village Square for the World Cup presentations.  Whistler Question Collection, 1982.

This would be the only race held on this course.  Racers complained the north side course was too flat and Müller even joked that he should bring his cross-country skis to the next one.  The downhill course was moved back to the south-side course and every other World Cup Downhill race held in Whistler was held on this course.  The racecourse was later renamed after Crazy Canuck Dave Murray, who succumbed to cancer in 1990.

Whistler hosted the World Cup Downhill event again in 1984 and two years later in 1986.  In 1989, Rob Boyd became the first Canadian to win a World Cup race on home soil.  If you ask many Whistlerites here at the time, they can tell you where they were when Boyd crossed the finish line.

Local boy Rob Boyd atop the podium, 25 February 1989. Photo: Greg Griffith/WMAS.

Prior to the Olympic Games hosted in 2010, the last successful Downhill Men’s event was held in 1995.

From 1996 to 1998, the FIS moved the North American stops to earlier in the race season, leading to three consecutive cancellations of the Whistler stop on the World Cup circuit due to snow and weather conditions.

Will Whistler host another World Cup Downhill race?  Or will it be an event that only appears in Whistler’s past?

This Week in Photos

As it’s the beginning of a new year, we thought we’d share some photos from the beginnings of some other years in Whistler’s past.  From the mundane to the more historic, we’ve collected a few shots of six new years in Whistler.  All photos come from the Whistler Question and were taken or published in the first week of January.

1979

Cold temperatures created perfect temperatures for outdoor skating.  Here we have a hockey game on quite an impressive looking rink.

Creekside was a pretty busy place with cars taking up most of the available space during the days.

Rocky the Raccoon pays his nightly visit through the hole in the rock at the Whistler Vale bar.

One for the road! Highways’ gravel truck being rescued out of the ditch by Wayside Park on Sunday, January 7.

1980

Bill and Lillian Vander Zalm engaging in a friendly snowball fight during their visit to Whistler.

A busy moment at the intersection in Creekside with the ski traffic filling the highway.

The snow was looking pretty good for the new year!

Whistler children enjoy a performance by Officer O’Sneely and giants in the Myrtle Philip School gym.

1981

Highway 99 shows the effects of rampant flooding. Turbulent waters carved a new creek bed for a hundred yards.

One of two destroyed power lines when flood waters washed out footings south of the Tisdale Hydro Station.

BCR Rutherford Creek crossing hangs by its rails after the December 26 flood washed away all supports and girders.

Pauline Wiebe hard at work checking the next edition of the Whistler Question.

1982

Willie Whistler poses with some young racers at the base of the village lifts.

They’re off! One of the groups starts in the ALSC X-Country race January 2.

The shelves at the grocery store were looking pretty empty after the holidays.

Two real longhorns – assistant manager Gavin Yee poses with manager Peter Grant.

Ski ballet made an appearance on the slopes with some impressive acrobatic feats.

1983

Sign bylaw is in, neon goes out. A municipal bylaw saw the end of neon signs in the Village.

A pensive Dave Murray checks out the application of new skiing techniques put to task by young members of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club during the recent training camps.

Ready! Get Set! Go! The newest members of Alta Lake Sports Club are off and racing in a 400 metre cross-country event Sunday, January 2.

A Molson downhill race was held on Whistler Mountain, making the most of the snow.

Heavy apres ski traffic is masterfully channelled by parking attendant Nick Di Lalla on Sunday, January 2, in Whistler Village.

1985

New Year’s Eve saw a packed Village as crowds celebrated the countdown to 1985.

The celebrations for New Year’s Eve were overseen by Santa Claus, hanging around a bit later than expected.

The offices of the Whistler Question, where Kevin Griffin works tirelessly on despite interruptions.

The Whistler Singers perform under the direction of Molly Boyd.

And her son, Rob Boyd, walks down some stairs in the Whistler Village.