Tag Archives: World Cup

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.

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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 amount 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!

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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!

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

Her 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

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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.

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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!

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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.