Tag Archives: World Cup

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?

Advertisements

This Week in Photos: March 1

1979

The new Whistler Village model on display at the Village display suite adjacent to Municipal Hall.

The Molson World Cup course workers enjoy a little R&R courtesy of Molson’s after a hard day’s work on the course.

The line waiting to get up Whistler Mountain in Creekside.

An aerial view of Flute Basin.

Slim Fougberg was honoured at a school board event in Pemberton. The evening included speeches, dinner and skits.

1980

University school break results in record mid-week crowds.

Developer Peter Gregory and Architect Archambault show plans for the 316 room Mountain Inn (today the Hilton).

Not a Corral! This new fenced area outside L’Après is just the extension of the patio area in readiness for the spring season.

Oops! Warm wet weather caused the snow to slide off this Telemark roof and flatten the wagon parked below.

Carved lions guard the hotel entrance of the newly completed Whistler Creek Lodge.

1981

Local Brownies and Guides gathered at Myrtle Philip School.

The first skiers come off the Whistler Village Chair on February 28. You might be wondering where all the snow got to.

Dr. Rob Burgess, Dr. Christine Rodgers, Howie Goldsmid and Bill Hooson at the hospital meeting.

The Tapley’s crowd enjoy a few brews in the sun on Sunday, March 1. Photo by Greg D’Amico.

1982

On the job, the LTI truck proves its worth at Whistler West fire.

The Molson World Downhill came to Whistler, bringing thousands of spectators to the resort along with it.

Gr… Grrrgreat gorillas, Batman! Some people went just plain ape over the World Cup at Whistler.

Sold Out! Hungry ski fans eager to meet the competitors in the World Downhill race polished off the sauerkraut and sausages in record time Thursday. (L-R) Louise Zinsli, Jenny Busdon, Evelyn Cullen and Trudy Gruetzke of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce display the leftovers.

Thousands upon thousands of spectators jam Whistler Village Square for the World Cup presentations.

A torchlight parade makes its way down Whistler Mountain.

Tony Fernandez, R.6 Herron and Danno Five-O rock the socks off a packed house at Myrtle Philip School Saturday, February 27.

Doug Bennett and fellow slugs gave the crowd what they paid for and more during two performances at the Longhorn.

1983

The last girders are in place on the new Culliton Creek bridge. Now it can stand on its own concrete feet. Highways crews now must put on decking, pave approaches and cut the ribbon before the span opens to traffic this spring. Though you can’t tell from this photo, this bridge is famously orange.

Stre-e-e-tch in all directions in this lycra and cotton cross-country ski suit modelled by Shelley Nichol at a fashion show at Sundial Restaurant Thursday. The display was put on for the WRA by Virginiga Meachin of Whistler Cross-Country Ski Centre and featured fashions from Carlsberg’s, Inge’s, The Downhill Shop, Whistler Village Sports, Village Traditions, Brick Shirt House and Whistler Tops.

Brownies from Barbados offer food and facts about their country at Myrtle Philip School Monday, February 28.

“Hold’er newt!” Cress Walker and Paul Clark inch their just-built Dash 34 sailboat out of the warehouse in preparation for launch day Monday, February 28. It was a tight squeeze but it came out just as it went in – barely.

1985

The Baxter Group’s Gondola Village has sprouted up like mushrooms at the gondola base during the past four months. Cranes continue to put the finishing touches to 245 units included in the project.

Export “A” Cup racers milled around the time board Wednesday to find out how they placed in the downhill but almost everyone was surprised when unheralded Steven Lee from Australia emerged as the victor.

Jack Demidoff points to the spot where he and his hoe smashed through the ice on Nita Lake.

Skateboarder Harry Hovatha of Victoria does a 360 aboard his Austrian-made Swingbo, a skateboard on skis that sells for about $400 and was recently introduced to the Canadian market. Hovatha was with a group of skateboarders who visited Whistler last week on a promotional tour. But they couldn’t use Whistler Mountain lifts because of provincial lift regulations.

A Look Back at Whistler in 1984

Nineteen Eighty-Four.  No, I’m not referring to George Orwell’s seminal work of fiction, nor am I referring to the album released by Van Halen with songs like “Jump”.  1984 was a significant year in the development of Whistler as a year-round resort destination.

In 1982, Whistler Mountain successfully hosted a World Cup Downhill race after several early attempts were thwarted due to bad weather and poor snow conditions.  Two years later, in March 1984, the second successfully held World Cup race would draw thousands to Whistler Village.  It was one of the most successful promotions to date and would help solidify Whistler as a host for future World Cup events throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Spectators at the 1984 World Cup in Whistler Village.

Whistler and the nascent Blackcomb were four years into their competition to attract skiers to the resort and this was reflected in the advertising for both mountains.

The Whistler Golf Course and Club designed by Arnold Palmer opened to much fanfare in 1983.  It had a successful first year in operation, but would the second year draw the same number of visitors to Whistler?

Since the completion of Whistler Village, it had been a struggle to attract visitors to Whistler outside of the ski season.  A key component was on hold due to the economics of the early 1980s with high interest rates and lending institutions not willing to broker terms.  In 1984, however, the construction of the Sports and Convention Centre was back underway.

Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor had been used in many ski and outdoor adventure films, but had started to catch the eye of Hollywood and Japanese TV productions.  This led to a Japanese TV company filming a yogurt commercial here starring Sean Connery.

Sean Connery seen filming a Japanese commercial for Biogurt on the Whistler Golf Course in September, 1984.

“They need a strong, healthy, clean image, and 007 fit the part,” said production coordinator Martin Yokata.

The sport of mountain biking had grown to include officially sponsored events and would begin to attract more events to Whistler that would draw competitors from across Canada and the United States,  As has been detailed in other articles, the Great Earth, Snow and Water race was in its heyday and a number of other festivals and events attempted to draw visitors to Whistler in the spring, summer and fall.

Over the next few weeks, stay tuned for more stories detailing the importance of 1984 and the impact it had on determining Whistler as a year-round resort destination.

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:

Stephanie Sloan – Freestyle Superstar

Whistler is home to an exceptional number of ski champions, media stars, and otherwise accomplished athletes. One of the most under-appreciated is Stephanie Sloan. Many people know Stephanie as the wife of the late ski racing legend Dave Murray of Crazy Canuck fame, or perhaps as the mother of Olympic skier-cross competitor Julia Murray. Fewer realize that Stephanie is actually a more decorated competitive skier than either of them, combined!

bumps.jpg

Stephanie competing in the bumps, Whistler, late 1970s. Greg Griffith Photo.

From 1976-1981 Stephanie competed on the World Cup freestyle circuit, earning 57 podium finishes and claiming the overall world championship 3 times. Moguls was her strongest discipline, but as the overall title combined results from aerials and ballet as well, she was definitely no one-trick pony!

areil.jpg

Getting upside-down in aerials. Laax, Switzerland, 1979.

She and husband Dave both retired from the World Cup scene around the same time, and transitioned into post-competitive life as coaches and mentors for the sport. While Dave is well-remembered for his namesake ski camps, Stephanie made a huge contribution to the sport as well through the women’s-specific camps which she launched during the 1982/83 season.

While teaching skiing to women was nothing new, there were few, if any, women-only programs focused on all-mountain techniques and able to cater to advanced skiers. As this newspaper clipping from The Province indicates, these were well-rounded clinics for serious skiers.StephSloan024 - Province article Nov 1986 Women on the March

steph.jpg

Stephanie Sloan (left) leading a group of ladies at one of her 7UP sponsored women’s skiing camps.

With their winter programs established, the next step was to operate year-round carrying on Whistler’s heritage as a premier destination for summer glacier skiing. Stephanie and Dave launched hugely successful summer skiing camps, with friends and colleagues from the Canadian National teams making up a large portion of the coaches. While lots of serious and high-performance training happened on the Whistler Glacier during the summer, Stephanie couldn’t resist a little fun and did photo shoots while skiing in a bathing suit nearly every summer.

green.jpg

We were fortunate enough to have Stephanie into the museum this past week, sharing her many stories and photos from her life, both competing on the world tour, then growing the sport of skiing with Dave here in Whistler.

To learn more about her storied career, make sure to swing by the Whistler Museum on Sunday February 21st for our next Speaker Series event. The topic will be “Celebrity Athletes and the growth of modern skiing.” Speaking alongside Stephanie will be John Smart, former Olympic freestyle skier and founder of world-renowned Momentum Ski Camps, and Rob McSkimming, VP-Business Development and former Snow School Director for Whistler-Blackcomb. See you there!

***

When: Sunday February 21st; Doors at 6pm, show 7pm-9pm
Where: Whistler Museum (4333 Main Street, beside the Library)
Who: Everyone!
Cost: $10 regular price, $5 for museum members

We expect this event to sell out, so make sure to get your tickets early. To purchase tickets stop by the museum or call us at 604.932.2019.