The need for speed 

Parsons Memorial race gives young speed racers a head start

"Start ’em young" has become a universal rule for fostering excellence in sports, something that wasn’t lost on Bob Parsons when he helped create a downhill race for young skiers back in 1969. His goal was to give younger racers a chance to try downhill racing themselves on a safe course, helping them to get over their fears of speed while building an appreciation for the most prestigious of all alpine skiing events.

This weekend K2 racers (ages 13-14) from Whistler and the Lower Mainland will compete in the 25 th annual Bob Parsons Memorial Downhill and Super G, Whistler’s longest running alpine race.

All the events will take place on Lower Cruiser on Blackcomb with downhill races on Friday and Saturday, and a Super G on Sunday.

CIBC Wood Gundy is sponsoring the race as part of their provincial K2 series, and more than 100 racers from the coast zone are expected to participate. The top racers will have an opportunity to represent B.C. at the K2 Nationals.

Bob Parsons grew up in Vancouver and in the late 1940s started to ski on the North Shore mountains with his brother Stan. They started to compete in jumping, Nordic and downhill skiing on Hollyburn and Seymour mountains.

The Parsons family first became involved with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club in the late ’60’s, and before long their own children were racing with the club. Bob often went with the team as they travelled across the province and to Alberta, helping with course preparation and safety.

He was also involved in the creation of the Vancouver Ski Team, which became the B.C. Ski Team in the late 1970s.

Parsons has also been credited with founding the famed Weasel Workers crew, which made courses safe and skiable for racers in the days before winch cats, when grooming was all done by hand. The Weasel Workers worked behind the scenes at ever major CanAm, NorAm and World Cup downhill event ever held in Whistler, including the Pontiac GMC Cup races held last spring. They also lend their expertise to other mountains, most recently helping prepare the courses for the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup held last December.

The youth downhill race that Bob Parsons created in 1969 was originally called the Back Bowl Downhill, with events held over Christmas and Spring Break so skiers from the Lower Mainland could participate.

Following his death in 1979, the event was renamed the Bob Parsons Memorial in 1980. The winner of the boy’s downhill that first year was Bob’s son Jim Parsons. Bob’s grand daughter, Alison Leighton, also competed in the race twice, winning silver and bronze.

In recent years the event has moved from Whistler to Blackcomb, and has alternated between downhill and super G events – the super G being relatively new to the world stage.

This is the first year that both a downhill and super G will be part of the Parsons Memorial races.

A memorial trust fund has been set up in Bob Parsons’ name, and each fall bursaries are presented to up and coming ski racers at the annual Bob Parsons Memorial Golf Tournament.



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