When Whistler held its first World Cup Downhill race in 1982, the course ran from the top of the Black and Orange Chairs, down through the Double Trouble rollers, the Pony Trail Flats, Tokum Corner, the Elevator Shaft and across Crabapple Creek to the finish line in view of the recently completed Whistler Village. This was, however, the only World Downhill to run this course, and in 1984 the course returned to the south side of Whistler Mountain.
The race in 1984 followed the same course as had been planned for the World Downhill in 1979. It began near the top of the Orange Chair, coming down the run now known as Dave Murray Downhill and ending above today’s Creekside area. The course was prepared by hundreds of Weasel Workers, volunteers who bootpacked, slide-slipped and carefully maintained the race surface, as well as working the course during training runs and the race itself.
Spectators were encouraged to come and watch at both the race itself on March 11 and at the training races in the preceding days. Organizers with the multi-day festival Winterfest offered a VIP viewing experience for Winterfest patrons, who were flown by helicopter to a prime viewing location on the mountain where they could enjoy a champagne brunch before being flown back down to the valley. For those who didn’t have a spare $1,000 to become a patron, organizers printed a guide to viewing locations along the course. From Double Trouble near the top of the course, spectators could expect to see racers come down the starting pitch and tuck before disappearing beyond Toilet Bowl. Racers would be going pretty fast, and spectators watching from the finish could see the racers push themselves to make up any lost time. Highly recommended was Coach’s Corner, with a sharp turn and a section requiring good technical ski skills.
Whistler was the last stop for the 1984 World Downhill. This meant that by the time the World Cup came to town and Winterfest began, many of the racers were well known even to those who didn’t usually follow the circuit. Franz Klammer of Austria and Crazy Canuck Steve Podborski were fan favourites, especially as this was to be Podborski’s final race before retiring at the end of the season. On March 11, however, it was the American skier Bill Johnson who came in first. This was the third World Downhill win for Johnson, who had also taken gold at the 1984 Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo.
According to the Whistler Question, the race was a success “in terms of excitement and technical difficulty,” though the start was postponed twice due to fog. Some of the top skiers of the season didn’t finish the race, including Erwin Resch of Austria, who had a serious fall but still came in second in the overall downhill standings. The top Canadian results came from Todd Brooker, who finished fourth, and Podborski in fifth. This race also marked the end of local skier Rob Boyd’s first World Downhill season.
While the course in 1982 drew complaints from some racers, reactions to the 1984 race and surrounding events were mostly positive, although the snow did soften throughout Sunday, making for some tough conditions for those later in the line-up, and reports of the race admonished spectators who chose to boo Johnson at the finish. Nonetheless, hundreds gathered in Mountain Square to cheer for the racers at the official ceremony. Joey Lavigne, the Canadian Men’s Downhill coach, even told Winterfest organizer Tony Formby that “Whistler had the best-run event on the whole 10-race World Cup downhill circuit.”