Tag Archives: World Cup

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: 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.