This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Peak to Valley race, taking place on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
The Peak to Valley is a very unique race that has a definite place in Whistler’s history. The brainchild of legendary ski racer Dave Murray the race starts at (almost) the top of Whistler Mountain at the Saddle and finishes at the Creekside base.
The average giant slalom race has 35 gates and a vertical drop of 250 metres. The Peak to Valley race has a vertical drop of 1,443 metres, with 180 gates and a course that's over 5 kilometres long.
Judging from interviews with the racers, a lot of the Peak to Valley is about overcoming pain. Whistler resident Sarah Lynch described the experience in 2010: “I was just trying to remember to breathe and then your legs are just burning.”
Alongside the pain, however, comes a lot of fun and camaraderie. Former Olympians and national team skiers are known to frequent this event, but the Peak to Valley is not just for professional racers. Anyone can join in — if they dare! The fastest time on record is four minutes, 52.03 seconds — the longest — 29:03.50. Despite the discrepancies, both record holders had an awesome time taking part.
The race is a team effort with four people per team. Teams must have at least one woman and all must be 19 or older. Two team members race on the first day and two more race on the second. Their times are combined and the winning team is crowned.
There have been some questionable conditions facing the racers over the years, but to date no race has ever been cancelled. In 1991, the weather was so stormy that the entire mountain was closed but the race still went ahead. Racers could upload on the Olive chair and then had to get a snowcat the rest of the way up, as the conditions were too dangerous for a lift to be run. One racer, Simon Wiruntene from the New Zealand National Ski Team, even hiked up, as he knew he was one of the last to start, and actually managed to get the fastest time of the day!
To mark the 30th anniversary, Whistler Blackcomb has commissioned a quilt made out of the race T-shirts spanning the entire history of the event. The result is an impressive memento of one of Whistler’s best-loved races. The quilt will be auctioned off to raise money for the Whistler Museum.
To make a bid for this piece of Whistler racing history, check out the Whistler Museum website (www.whistlermuseum.org) or call us at 604-932-2019. The quilt will be displayed at the Peak to Valley race itself and then afterwards at the Whistler Museum. Bidding will close on Feb. 21.
Sarah Drewery is the executive director of the Whistler Museum