The Winter Olympics can be an exceptionally exciting time for Whistler residents because of the abundance of local athletes competing in the Games.
The Sochi Olympics are no exception. Athletes from in and around Whistler will be participating this month, and with that in mind, the Whistler Museum has decided on the topic of ski racing — a thriving sport in the Winter Games — for our February Speaker Series.
Before revealing the details of our upcoming event, allow me to indulge you in some local history that put Canada — and Whistler, specifically — on the map for ski racing.
Although there were many Canadian ski racers competing internationally, it wasn’t until the five-man, game-changing Crazy Canucks that Canadian ski racing truly made a name for itself. The Crazy Canucks, who rose to prominence during the '70s and '80s, were a group of World Cup alpine ski racers who were best known for their fast and seemingly fearless skiing.
The Crazy Canucks hold a huge place in Whistler’s history; the late and great Dave Murray was the first racer from The Whistler Mountain Ski Club to race in the World Cup. Furthermore, after retiring from racing, Murray ran the summer camps on Whistler Mountain for many years. Another racer, still active in the ski racing world today, is Steve Podborski. As a teenager, Podborski attended the Whistler Mountain summer camps.
Being the youngest member of the Crazy Canucks, Podborski had the advantage of learning from his team members — some of the most influential ski racers in North America. In 1980, his skill in the sport was apparent as he became the first North American man to win an Olympic downhill medal. Shortly after that in 1982, Podborski won the World Cup season title in downhill, setting another first for a Canadian.
Since retiring from ski racing — after acquiring a total of eight World Cup downhill wins to his name — Podborski continues to stay active in the sport, working as a television commentator for many Winter Games. For the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, he was assistant Chef de Mission for Canada and was officially named Chef de Mission for Canada for the Sochi 2014 Games.
Whistler’s significance to ski racing in North America, and its ties to the Olympic Games is truly evident when recalling our history with the sport. While I’ve only just touched on the Crazy Canucks and two of Whistler’s highly influential ski racers, Whistler’s history is rich in its athletes in the sport. For this reason, the Whistler Museum is ecstatic to be hosting our upcoming speaker series the topic.
The event will take place on Feb. 19, with guest speakers John Preissl and Andrée Janyk. Rather fittingly, Andrée’s son, Mike, will be participating in the giant slalom that day, and we are planning a livestream of the Games, pre-event.
The evening will focus on the history of ski racing in and around Whistler. John and Andrée, accompanied by some photographic gems from their personal collections, will be highlighting topics like the first ski races in Whistler, early ski race pioneers, local World Cup athletes, World Cup races, summer camps and more.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the actual presentations will begin at 7 p.m. Admission is $7 ($5 for museum members), and if you purchase a new museum membership for the year for just $25, we’ll include a ticket for free! Get your tickets early, as only 50 seats are available and speaker series events tend to sell out fast. Complimentary coffee and tea will be provided courtesy of the Whistler Roasting Company and Namasthé Tea Co., in addition to a cash bar.
We hope to see you there for further history, insight and discussion on the wonderfully elaborate topic of ski racing in Whistler!