Tag Archives: Rob Boyd

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?

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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.

Rob Boyd is God

February 25, 1989 is a date that any long-time Whistlerite should remember, because on that day Rob Boyd became the first Canadian male to win a World Cup Downhill event on Canadian soil.

It remains not only one of the most memorable days in our community’s history, but for Canadian ski fans as a whole. Not too long ago, we even had some visitors here to the Whistler Museum who recalled watching the race live on a black-and-white television in the lodge at Luggy Lump Ski Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland. If that does not warm your heart with old-fashioned Canadian nostalgia, nothing will.

Canadian National Ski Team. Boyd is far right. Photo: Greg Griffith/WMAS.

Canadian National Ski Team. Boyd is far right. WMAS, Greg Griffith Photo. 

It was a triumphant moment not only for the historic achievement, but also because Canadian supporters were still reeling from the gruesome and nearly fatal crash that Boyd’s teammate Brian Stemmle had suffered at Kitzbuhel six weeks earlier. By this point Stemmle was back on the long road to recovery and everyone was keen for a reason to celebrate.

If you watch the video clip of the CBC’s coverage of the race (available on YouTube), right after he crosses the finish line Boyd waves the cameraman over to get up close so that he can proudly announce “For you, Stemmle!” There’s also a pretty glorious cutaway to the raucous celebrations going on at Dusty’s.

Here in Whistler it was a massive community event. Rob had moved to Whistler as a teenager in 1982, so he had huge local support. The medal ceremony drew one of the largest crowds ever assembled in Whistler up to that point and the party kept going for days.

That evening a fundraiser was held at the Conference Center for the national ski team, featuring performances by Colin James and Smokey Robinson. Apparently the $125 event had not been selling well, but Boyd’s dramatic victory put everyone in the celebratory mood and all 1,800 tickets were eventually spoken for.

It was a legendary party that included, among other things, the golden boy being gifted a pair of Dwight Yoakam’s cowboy boots that Boyd proceeded to brandish on the dance floor.

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

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

This wasn’t Rob’s first World Cup gold medal, having won twice already at Val Gardena, Italy, but winning on home soil was certainly a career highlight.

Rob still lives in Whistler and remains one of our town’s biggest heroes. Just a few weeks ago there was a huge party at Dusty’s Bar to celebrate Rob’s 50th birthday, a stone’s throw from the finish line where he won gold 27 years earlier.

When he’s not celebrating birthdays you can find Rob coaching for the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. The club’s Creekside headquarters are easy enough to find, address: 2028 Rob Boyd Way.

Some go as far as to say that Rob Boyd is God: