The Kokanee Valley Race Series (KVRS) kicked off last Thursday (Jan. 8) with a Giant Slalom event on Ross’ Gold (Gandy Dancer) on Blackcomb with 35 amateur racers competing.
The event usually starts in December but was postponed due to low snowpack.
John Muzillo set the fastest time of the day with a combined time of One minute, 26.4 seconds, winning the men’s 50-59 age category. He was followed by Geoff Gerhart (1:26.83) and Chris Wetaski (1:30.26) who managed the second and third fastest times of the day, respectively.
But at the KVRS, finish times and rankings are just one part of the experience. A dedicated core group of amateur racers turn out every Thursday — season after season — for the social aspect of the event as much as the race itself.
“The energy is great,” said Muzillo, adding he’d only missed one season of KVRS since 2007. “Great people, good times, we all know each other like family. It’s great to see new people come because we’re a welcoming group. It’s just fun.”
Around 70 per cent of racers at the KVRS on Thursday were aged between 50 and 79, many of whom have been a part of the series for many years. While amateur ski racing is currently experiencing a lull in popularity, the events department at Whistler Blackcomb is still hopeful it will see more participation in the younger age brackets in the future.
“I’m hoping to see a re-growth of interest in ski racing,” said Seb Fremont, events manager for Whistler Blackcomb. “We’ve got to entice the younger crowds to come out and make it interesting for them. We’ve had the same crowd for a long time and it’s an aging group, so we’re looking to build on that and get the new kids to come and join. Number wise (the participation) has gone down a little bit, but we have a solid group of 40 to 50 people that will come back for every race.”
Fremont stressed that the KVRS is purely recreational and that participants don’t require any experience in gates, but having appropriate equipment definitely helps.
“We mostly do Giant Slalom, but we are bringing back a slalom race this year because the racers have been asking for it,” said Fremont. “(Slalom) requires specific equipment; a shorter ski with smaller turn radius and not everyone has that, but the demand is there so we’re going to give it a go. But the faster events (like Giant Slalom or Super G) is generally what people like to do.”
Every KVRS event has an apres event at the Mountain Club in the Westin Resort and Spa where racers are awarded with prizes from sponsors, watch video footage from the day and socialize with bottles of Kokanee in hand.
“If an 80 year old can come out here and race, then people shouldn’t be intimidated by (this event),” said Muzillo. “Come out and try it. We’re a great group and we want to see everyone do well.”
For more information on the Kokanee Valley Race Series including full results and the 2014/15 event schedule head to www.whistlerblackcomb.com/events.