Irene Collins & Jules Lajoie, 05/02/2017: WOW what a snow season this has been in Whistler. At this writing, beginning of April, natural base is still just under 3.5M and accumulated snowfall is nearing 11.5M.Temperature has been about 5 degrees colder than normal all season. Kokanee Valley Race Series (KVRS) is the main racing activity in Whistler. Seven races were planned of which one was cancelled due to too much snow. Three were on Whistler Mountain and three were on Blackcomb, all on different hills, making for very interesting terrain for each event. A Super G on the Dave Murray National Training Center (DMNTC) and a Slalom on Upper Cruiser are included in the six; rest were GS. The premier adult race event in Whistler is the Peak to Valley race, the longest GS race on the planet, with some 175 gates, vertical drop of over 1.2 km, and course length of 5.5 km. 320 racers participated in 80 teams of 4 over two days at the end of February. Thigh burning hell was Dave Murray’s description of this race. It was a very successful event in excellent racing conditions on hard snow, capped by the Saturday night mountain top dinner party. The weekend before has a pre Peak to Valley warm up GS race on the Lower Franz, the last section of the Peak to Valley track. Note: The pre Peak to Valley race is on the Masters’ National Calendar but not the official race the following weekend. Silver Star Resort, in Vernon, hosted the Over the Hill Downhill (OTHDH) during the first week of February. The 4 day race camp (Tuesday-Friday) was operated by a very experienced crew headed by Gord Brown. Most camp attendees managed 7 or 8 runs, per day, on the course in cold weather conditions on a hard track. Video analysis occurred after each session. Qualifying run was on Saturday, a day plagued by too much snow and a mountain wide power outage due to a vehicle accident toppling a power pole! Lift auxiliary power got turned on for lifts, and for safety the qualifying run was done fully clothed on a soft surface. Snow set up overnight and with superb grooming, conditions were perfect on Sunday race day with 4 person team race in the morning and Masters’ individual race in the afternoon, followed by race reception and awards in the village. From February 12 to 17, Kimberley Alpine Resort invited Masters to race with Paralympic Alpine athletes at the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Canadian and USA National Speed Championships. We trained and competed on the same track with approximately 36 Paralympic athletes. There was a day of DH training, four timed DH training runs, two DH races and two SG races. In addition to the speed events, there was a night Slalom and a GS race, for the approximately 24 Masters that signed up.
The highlights that made these races unforgettable: The freedom and athleticism of the athletes skiing with visual and physical impairments. The goal of the IPC is: To enable Para athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world. They definitely did that! Kimberley’s race track called ‘Dreadnaught’ which has rolling terrain, with quick, steep pitches near the end that heighten the challenge. However, still very masters’ friendly; we had a Masters athlete that was born in 1934 from Manitoba that was able to master this hill There had been fresh snow in Kimberley the week before the races and for the DH training and races, we competed on beautifully-groomed-winter snow with ‘bluebird’ skies. I had only signed up for one day of DH training and ended up coming back each day to train and race DH because of the excellent coaching, conditions and small numbers. The spirit of Kimberley’s volunteer team and of Alberta Master’s coach, Claudio Berto, who went to bat for us to reschedule the races after the two SG races were postponed, due to poor visibility and 6 cm of heavy, wet snow, managed to facilitate four races in less than 24 hours, starting with the night Slalom and continuing Friday with two SG races and a GS race, all completed by the deadline of 2 o’clock Friday afternoon! We wrapped the day up with awards.