Whistler Longboard Festival gets bigger and better

Event returns for second year with new races at Olympic Park

Back for a second year, the Whistler Longboard Festival has expanded to a four-day event that will utilize two Olympic venues, starting tomorrow (Thursday, July 12) in the Callaghan Valley.

Although the downhill racing that captivated audiences outside the Whistler Sliding Centre in 2011 will be back this weekend, the festival is staging two new races at Whistler Olympic Park tomorrow, including one that organizers hope will attract participation from Sea to Sky residents.

The park will host a 20-kilometre endurance longboard race that gets underway at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, followed by a Skate and Shoot Biathlon - an event that's never been done before and is open to the public, said festival director Lee Cation

"This is the event we created so that regular folks can get involved in the festival without having to be an extreme downhill guy," said Cation. "This is one-of-a-kind."

The biathlon will be modelled after the Olympic winter sport, using the park's shooting range but with competitors traveling a 10-km course on wheels instead of skis.

But the downhill races are still the main event of the festival this year, thanks to a great debut last summer and a course plotted on the sliding centre's service road on Blackcomb that has captured attention in the longboard community.

"We felt like we put ourselves on the map (last year)," said Cation. "The road speaks for itself it's really unbeatable. That's the thing here - people are coming to this event because it's a spectacular venue."

The road features seven hairpin turns and a vertical drop of 1,000 feet, making it one of the most technical courses out there when it comes to sanctioned racing. Cation said organizers are expecting 160 elite racers to battle it out for $5,000 in cash prizes while reaching speeds of more than 80 km/h on the course.

"It's a really stacked field," said Cation. "People are coming from all over the world to ride this hill just like they do in other sports. We're pretty excited."

There are racing classes for all ages and genders, plus the addition of a luge. Saturday (July 14) will be a practice day for downhill racers with elimination rounds starting at 1 p.m. Sunday (July 15) and finals scheduled for around 4 p.m. Spectators are welcome both days.

On-site registration for the Skate and Shoot Biathlon will be available, with rifle training and orientation for the first of two rounds starting around 10 a.m. and the second round starting around 2 p.m. Boards will be available for use but participants must bring a helmet, said Cation.

See www.longboardfestival.com for more details.

Organizers hope for cooperation

Cation said it's imperative that the sliding centre's service road not be used for skating by the general public.

"People can not go to this road and essentially poach the hill," said Cation, noting that the road is private property. "This is a concern of the venue and for all of us - that people will want to go there outside of event hours and mimic what we're doing, but it's very dangerous.

"Please respect the festival and the hard work that has been done by not poaching our hill."

Cation also noted that spectators "will be a little more comfortable" at this year's downhill races, as food vendors and a beer garden will be set up on site. No smoking will be permitted outside of designated areas on the event grounds. Parking is available in Lot 8, while those arriving on bikes or boards will have to check them at the entrance gate.

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