Favourite Whistler Athlete (Overall)
Ashleigh McIvor has won everything there is to win in the sport of ski cross — World Cups, pro events, the world championships and, with Canada cheering her on, the debut of her sport at the 2010 Olympics. She announced her retirement from racing back in November to focus on other opportunities in skiing — and to preserve her left knee after undergoing a third major surgery in Jan. 2011 after landing flat during training at X Games.
While we'll miss all the hardware she brought home as a professional racer, McIvor is not really going anywhere. She's only 29 years old after all, and she's still an avid skier, mountain biker, surfer, etc. who will be awesome at all those things for years to come.
"I was so excited," she said of hearing that she had won this Best of Whistler category once again. "(Fiance) Jay (DeMerit) was making fun of me for how excited I was... Obviously Whistler is the one place in the world that is most important to me, and to know I have the respect of other members of the community is just amazing. Almost more amazing than any medal I've received."
McIvor's post-racer career is going strong. She worked with CBC to broadcast the ski cross World Cup, and could be in front of the camera at other events leading up to the 2014 Olympics as well. She's also getting lots of work filming, and has been approached to be in a big-mountain feature film as well — something she always wanted to do. "Honestly, that's a big part of why I got into ski cross in the first place, to make a name for myself so I could do that sort of thing," she said.
"It's really nice to be at home skiing powder with my friends."
Second on the list for Favourite Whistler Athlete was none other than Sarah Burke, who was tragically lost to us after a halfpipe crash in Utah last January.
Burke was a true trailblazer in skiing and in women's sports.
She pushed for the inclusion of women in freeski events and competed against men when she had to — which was often during her early years. As a competitor, she pushed her sport further and faster than anyone expected, driving the progression while maintaining her status as the athlete to beat in every event. She also happily created her own competition, coaching at Momentum ski camps in Whistler — which she first attended as a camper at age 14 — and inspiring other girls to get involved. When the sport of ski halfpipe was added to the Olympic Games, she was given a lot of the credit, both for the way she represented the sport and for the way she increased women's participation enough to make it an easy decision for Olympic organizers.
Third on the list goes to mountain bike freerider Brandon Semenuk, who placed first overall on the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour for two consecutive years in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, after recovering from injury and joining the tour in progress, he won the first four events he entered to jump to the lead in the standings. He had a rough outing in Whistler where he made rare mistakes on top of the course on both of his runs, but showed up to Red Bull Rampage in Utah this past October to earn enough points to take the lead back from Sweden's Martin Soderstrom by just 32.5 points.
Favourite Summer Athlete
One of Brandon Semenuk's nicknames among other riders on the Freeride Mountain Bike Tour is "The Silent Assassin," because he generally lets his riding do the talking. He's serious about training, about progressing his sport and winning, and does everything with a practiced style that makes his riding look effortless.
When he won Red Bull Joyride in Whistler in 2011, it was a clutch performance that came after crashing on his first attempt at a flip-tailwhip combination over the last air, giving him one chance to make the finals and win the only event that had eluded him so far. He even seems to know how to crash better than everyone else, because he picked up his bike, brushed off the dust and headed back up the course to lay down the winning run with 30,000 spectators cheering him on.
He may have crashed — almost everybody did — but that doesn't take away anything that Semenuk achieved this year: first place at Jump Ship, Catel Mountain Style, Crankworx Les 2 Alpes, the Claymore Challenge, the Colorado Freeride Festival and the Bearclaw Invitational. Whistler was really his only bad result all season, and he came into this season a little rusty after an injury.
His riding aside, Semenuk also did a few things to win over fans including a few awesome videos like his Life Behind Bars series with Red Bull, and his work with trail builders on the upper section of Full Nelson in Squamish.
At 21, Semenuk's best is still ahead of him.
Second on the list was freeride pioneer and coach Richie Schley, followed closely by professional road rider Will Routley.
Favourite Junior Athlete
Darcy Sharpe is not exactly a Whistler kid. He lives on Vancouver Island and learned to ride at Mount Washington, but in recent years he's found success working with coaches at the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club. Last season the 16-year-old was second in slopestyle at the FIS Junior World Championship, earned another silver in slopestyle at the national championships and netted a sixth place finish in his first World Cup competition in Quebec. He also had a good season in pro events — including a big air win at The Shred Show in Whistler — a five-star World Snowboard Tour event — and a sixth place in slopestyle.
Second on the list was Zander Geddes, who pretty much dominated in his age category in mountain biking this year, both at the BC Cup-level and at Crankworx. He also placed third in the Phat Wednesday Downhill Series this year, despite only attending five races — winning three of them and placing second twice.
Third belonged Finn Finestone, a talented snowboarder, BMX to mountain biker who punches well above his weight and age.
Best Run on Whistler / Best Run on Blackcomb
We all probably know people that tend to ride one mountain more than the other, either for convenience — although the Peak2Peak Gondola changed that equation — or because there's something they like on one mountain they can't get on the other; the afternoon sun shining on 7th Heaven, the rolling powder of Symphony, the powder catch-basin that is the Blackcomb Glacier, or the muscle-burning mileage of Peak to Creek. In the past we've always asked people what their favourite run was on Whistler Blackcomb, forgetting the fact that it's probably too narrow a question.
On Whistler, the leviathan that is Peak to Creek got the most votes. It's the longest continuous intermediate level run in North America, weighing it at 5.5km from the turnoff on Highway 86 with an elevation drop over 1,600 metres.
Second on Whistler is the very out-of-bounds Khyber Pass area, which needs a warning label: "If you're not into tree skiing, stay out. Don't go alone. Bring a phone and safety gear. Don't go late in the day. Be a very good skier or snowboarder. Know where you're going or you'll wind up at Cheakamus Lake or somewhere on the Cheakamus Lake Road. Watch for tree wells. Watch for creeks. Watch for cliffs, buried logs and fallen trees. Be prepared for a long traverse with a crazy luge track in the middle to get back to the ski area." Still, all these warning haven't prevented the area from becoming more popular over these years.
Third belongs to the Million Dollar Ridge area, which skirts Khyber and offers a few fun options that link up to trails in the Peak to Creek network. Also technically out of bounds, so take precautions.
Rock'n'Roll rocks. And rolls. And does some other unexpected things as it winds its way down the slope in the Crystal area. On a groomer day it's almost as fun as its neighbour — and number two run on the list — Ridge Runner. On a powder day it becomes something else, with a lot of little surprises on both sides of the run.
Ridge Runner is a roller coaster on snow with gut lurching ups and downs, and one of those trails that's great in almost any conditions. It's also a trail where you can take anybody, from the most hardcore expert to the virtual beginner.
Spanky's Ladder, the gateway to the gems known as Diamond, Ruby and Sapphire bowls, was number three on the list. All the runs are steep, deep and double black, but if you know your way around you're going to have an amazing run.
Best XC Ski Loop
Of the more than 100km of cross-country trails available in the Callaghan and Lost Lake Park, the one with the most traffic is the Lost Lake Loop — a selection of beginner trails that circles the lake, and where most cross-country skiers in the community probably got their start. While there are longer, faster and more scenic trails out there, nostalgia, access and night skiing seem to count for a lot as the Lost Lake Loop took the most votes in this category. Second on the list was the almost 5km Norwegian Woods trail at Whistler Olympic Park in the Madeley Creek area. This is a great out-and back trail to Powell Lake. Third on the list is the very flat — and this year very cheap — loop of Nicklaus North, which has a few things going for it — it's flat, so it's fun for families and beginners, it's open so you get incredible views of the mountains. And did we mention that it's flat?
Best Snowshoe Trail
Lost Lake Park has around 10km of marked snowshoe trails to enjoy and lots of other options if you go off the beaten path, and is popular with everyone from amateurs to people warming up for race events like The Yeti Snowshoe Series (which comes to Whistler Olympic Park on Mar. 2 this year — visit www.theyeti.ca for details).
Second on the list for snowshoe fans was the Callaghan, or more specifically the trails at Whistler Olympic Park. The WOP has about 20km of marked trails to explore, and infinite side trips with lots of great snow.
Third is the Canadian Wilderness Adventures guided hike on the Medicine Trail in the Callaghan Valley, a 3.5-hour tour into old growth stands that were recently discovered to be over 1,000 years old.
Other areas to get significant votes include the Rainbow Trail and sections of The Flank Trail.
Best Thing To Do While Injured
Whistler is all about physics and testing the laws of gravity and motion on a regular basis. But what goes up must come down, and ligaments and bones can only take so much.
So what do you do if you have four to eight weeks, or longer, to heal and recover from your injuries? How do you pass the time?
The top entry on the list was to get drunk , always one of the most entertaining things to do while couch-bound, although it's a little more challenging with the NHL lockout still in effect. But as long as you have the Discovery Channel and it's Shark Week, you'll be well entertained.
Number two should really be number one, and that's read. Lots of great thinkers did their best work while incarcerated or laid up with injuries, and reading is a long and distinguished tradition for the injured.
If you have weeks on your hands and are looking for good, long reads, try The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, the Dune series by Brian Hebert, the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson, the Discworld collection by Terry Pratchett, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams and anything by Bill Bryson, Herman Melville, Dostoevsky, Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, Dickens, etc.
Third on the list was the Scandinave Spa, which isn't an option for all injuries but if you're walking and bones aren't held together by plaster then it could be just the thing.
Best Trail Running Trail
Trail running is hugely popular in Whistler, with its massive network of biking and hiking trails and some of the best off-road and mountain running anywhere.
Top of the list was Lost Lake Park and all the crushed gravel trails like Tin Pants, Molly Hogan, etc. The new section of Sea to Sky Trail from Lost Lake Park to Wedgemount opens up a lot of new possibilities and some breathtaking views of Green Lake as well.
Second on the list are the Riverside Trails. One staple loop is up to the suspension bridge and back down again, although there are lots of great options if you're looking to go a little further — upper Farside Trail, upper Riverside Trail, Loggers Lake and the Crater Rim Trail, and more.
Third on the list was the Valley Trail, which we'll disqualify because it's mostly paved. That brings us to fourth on the list, which is the 24km Comfortably Numb Trail. With the addition of Yummy Nummy, Jeff's Trail, the Golden Door and other modifications, there are a lot of different options available to runners apart from going the full and punishing distance. If you like to run this trail, then you might want to sign up for the Comfortably Numb Trail Run in June.
Cat Smiley of Kick Ass Workouts and the Original Boot Camp is not an easy coach at times, but there's no denying that she gets results. She's tough but fair, and knows how to motivate people.
She's also a highly certified trainer with a variety of credentials and awards to her credit, and can provide expert advice on diet and nutrition, women's health issues and more.
"I think the biggest selling point, and what has made my program so successful is the accountability and motivation, and the after workout support that's provided to keep people on track with a program," she said. "The Original Boot Camp is not just about showing up to class, there's a lot taken care of outside the class from sleep to nutrition to doing extra cardio. It's just the belief (among clients) that they are achieving bigger things than they thought they could achieve, and they're doing it safely and effectively. They trust me, because they can see that I'm taking care of the bigger picture, which allows them to push harder because they trust that whatever I'm asking them to do is achievable."
Second on the list this year Jordan Glasser of CrossFit Whistler. CrossFit recently opened a new facility on Alpha Lake Road in Function Junction with more space than before to deliver intense, all-around workouts.
Third went to mountain bike and freeski coach Jen Ashton, who always leads by example. She's a former world big mountain freeskiing champion and has been ranked among the top downhill mountain bikers in the country.
Best Cross-Country Bike Trail
A River Runs Through It is not the longest trail in Whistler but it's easily one of the most engaging — you're always doing something, whether it's popping your bike up and over some roots or riding one of the wooden bridges that made the trail famous.
Second on the list this year is Comfortably Numb, which weighs in at 24km from start to finish. There are a lot of different options to make the ride shorter or a little different — including short loops to the descent via Yummy Nummy, or backward rides to the Jeff's Trail cutoff.
The Zappa Trails in Lost Lake Park were third on the list, and are also a work in progress with constant upgrades and new sections being added to replace worn or damaged sections. When you include the trails around the White Gold Traverse, the trails on the far side of the park around Molly Hogan and all the old, weathered trails in the park, you can happily spend hours riding in Lost Lake Park without covering the same ground twice.
Danimal was a close fourth, meaning the section of North Danimal that was rerouted and rebuilt a few years ago to create one of the best rides in the valley. The other sections have also seen a bit of work, but it's North Danimal that you'll go back to again and again.
Best Bike Park Trail
With its third consecutive win for best trail, it's safe to say that Crank It Up is beyond popular, and for good reasons. Whistler Mountain Bike Park crews built something that is just as exciting for the pro on the $8,000 downhill bike as the rec rider on a hard tail. It's got a mix of everything from sweeping berms to rollers you can air off it you want, and is covered with optional jumps and wall rides. And it's long — races held on Crank It Up are some of the longest you'll see on any course that starts at Olympic Station.
Second on the list is A-Line, the original machine-built trail that defined the bike park with something like 130 features from top to bottom, ranging from high-speed berms to some of the biggest tables in the park — big enough that some of the crazier local riders are now throwing backflips off of them. If you want to see what it's like to ride at high speed, go to YouTube and search for "Brian Lopes Air Downhill Run."
Third place went to another machine-made trail, Dirt Merchant. It's steeper and more technical than A-Line, but has the same general design where you feel like you're always doing something. Your seat is just an ornament on this trail.
Best Indoor Sport
Is competitive yoga a thing? Because yoga got the most nods in this category by over 50 votes. Given the number of yoga classes available on any given day in Whistler, and the fact that more than 1,000 people take classes every week in the resort, it's safe to say that more people are doing yoga than almost every other sport outside of skiing and cycling.
Hockey was second on the list this year. While the pros and owners can't seem to get it together, recreational and competitive hockey has never been as strong in the resort with three leagues and over a dozen minor teams using the rink. Last season we also had a few weeks in January where skating on Alta Lake was excellent, and at one point there were eight different shinny games taking place at the same time.
The Bounce indoor trampoline centre ranked third on the list this year. The attraction is obvious — trampolines on the floors and walls, a foam pit, good music and the ability to drop in and use them for $15 ($10 for kids under seven).
Best Outdoor Sport
2012 is the year that snowboarding at last upset skiing for Best Outdoor Sport. While skiing is reasserting itself, snowboarding remains hugely popular with newcomers to snow sports, while the progression in recent years has been incredible. Add in movies like Red Bull's "The Art of Flight" and snowboarding has a healthy future.
Skiing was a solid number two on the list this year, and isn't far from first if that makes plankers feel better. Don't worry, you'll always have the long traverses, ski rests and an extra carving edge on icy days.
Number three, this year and every year, is mountain biking — a sport you would think would top out eventually, but just keeps on getting bigger and better.
Best Toonie Race Sponsor
It takes a lot of work and sometimes money to host one of WORCA's weekly Toonie Rides, and anyone who volunteers to put on one of these events and host anywhere from 125 to 350 riders deserves a lot of credit. This year the Scandinave Spa and Burnt Stew Café got the most votes for putting on the best race, with a ride in Lost Lake Park followed by free access to the hot pools and facilities at the Scandinave Spa — the perfect end to the perfect day.
Second on the list was the après by FanatykCo and The Southside Diner on Aug.16.
Third went to the first race hosted by Evolution, Alpine Café, Whistler Outdoor Adventures/TAG, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and the Pemberton Distillery. The weather wasn't great but they made the event memorable.
Best Bike Tech
James Barrett at The Fixx is a busy guy, and no wonder. He has a hardcore following of mountain bikers and roadies that use his services, and before major races like the Test of Metal and GranFondo he has to put in a lot of late nights to keep up with demand. He's also famous for milling specialized punch-outs, hangers and other specialized components on his 3D milling machine.
Second and third on the list were Kevan Kobayashi and Adrian McGree at FanatykCo. They're both avid bikers and when someone comes in from the bike park for an emergency repair they jump into action like an F1 pit crew.
Best Boot Fitter
In Whistler, boot fitters are revered and for good reason. Anyone who has ever suffered for months or years with uncomfortable ski boots, and then had a pair professionally fitted knows those reasons all too well.
Top of the list in this year's Best of Whistler was George McConkey from McCoo's, followed by Kevin Ahearn at FanatkykCo and Sam McDonald at Surefoot.
What Sport Would You Most Like To See In The Olympics
Given all the new sports added in recent years — ski halfpipe, ski and snowboard slopestyle, team luge, team figure skating, women's ski jumping, women's boxing, BMX, kite surfing, ski cross, etc. — we thought it would be interesting to ask people what's missing from the Games.
The top answer was hockey . I know what you're going to say, that hockey is in the Olympics already, but it's still unknown whether the NHL will give leave for players to join the Olympics in 2014.
The topic was being negotiated before the NHL lockout, and has fallen to the wayside now that the owners and players have bigger things to worry about.
Whatever happens, there will be hockey at the 2014 Games — but whether NHL players will be in the tournament is yet to be decided.
Second on the list is downhill mountain biking, a sport that most agree has been overlooked for far too long. The IOC has turned down the sport based on the terrain requirements, although mountain bike advocates suggest that they can work around that by hosting the event on the nearest slope.
Third went to skateboarding, a sport that the IOC has rejected in the past and doesn't yet consider to be a recognized sport with a credible international federation. It won't be on the schedule for 2016 unless another sport sanctions it or the Rio organizing committee pushes for it, but there's an outside chance it could be in the Games by 2020.
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