The annual Whistler Peak to Valley Race is one of those events where it gets harder the less time you spend getting from A to B, as lactic acid builds up in your muscles. Holding edges and carving the courses' 180 gates gets progressively harder until the athletes are literally screaming when they reach the finish line, 1,440 vertical metres down the mountain.
That's why it comes as no surprise that Davey Barr, Stan Rey, Aleisha Cline and Julia Murray — all recent members of the Canadian Ski Cross Team — posted some of the fastest times on both days of the event. While ski cross racers never race competition courses as long, racers can take as many as five runs of a course in a single day of competition and endurance counts.
There was no plot among the ski cross racers to enter the event this year, it just sort of happened that they all found themselves in the field. Stan Rey, the fastest male on Friday, raced the event when he was 19 and joined a team this year with his father.
"It definitely hurt a lot," he said of the effort to get to the bottom. "Going into it, you know you're in for a grudge match halfway down the course. Out of the gate I went 100 per cent like I did was 19 and about a minute and a half in your legs start burning, your lungs start burning and you have to grunt through. The bottom half isn't skied nearly as well as the top half, you can get the angles or hold the edges you would if you were full of energy.
"But it's an awesome event and really cool to see. There was a guy this year who was 89 years old and race, so it's great to see the ski community come together like that for this event."
Looking at the competition — a lot of former World Cup and provincial team racers — Rey didn't know if he could be the fastest. "There was one guy I was on the provincial team with who's a bit older and a bit fitter than I am, and I thought for sure he was going to beat me. I wasn't thinking about too much to be honest, but it was good fun to be competing."
Rey was with the national ski cross team for two seasons before he decided that his future lay in big mountain freeskiing. Recently he's been waiting for more snow to get out filming again, keeping his eye on the forecast. "I think I'll be back out this weekend, it's good to see a little snow in the forecast again."
The Peak to Valley took place over two days with teams of four competing for the fastest times in their combined age categories. Because the snow conditions can change hugely from day to day, two members of each team race on each day. As well, the event is co-ed, and every foursome has to have at least one female member.
The course itself is around 5km long from top to bottom, although with all the twists and turns around 180 GS gates it's actually longer. Top speeds are hard to measure, but the top female athletes averaged over 50km per hour and some of the men averaged around 60km/h.
On Friday, former ski cross champion Aleisha Cline posted the fastest women's time, cleaning the course in 5:54.63. Kokanee Valley Race Series regular Liz Thompson was second in 5:58:51 and Joan Wilson third in 6:03.48. Rounding out the top 10 were Mackenzie Irwin in 6:05.48, Akiko Takemoto in 6:42.01, Kelly Jackson in 6:42.35, Andrée Janyk in 6:46.40, Marta Smoll in 6:49.63, Victoria Fenninger in 6:50.02 and Jennifer Adrill Wilson in 6:54.20.
Stan Rey, who was a national level ski racer before he got into ski cross, posted the fastest time for the men after clearing the course in 5:14.98. Ryan Oughtred, a former World Cup technical racer, was second in 5:22.39, and Marcus Waring, a racer turned freeskier, was third in 5:25.33. Phil Beauregard and Rob Boyd were fourth and fifth respectively in 5:29.98 and 5:30.27, with Clay Dolan placing sixth in 5:34.11, Luke Dolan seventh in 5:35.19, James McSkimming eighth in 5:44.16, Anthony Jira ninth in 5:47.73 and Eric Rey 10th in 5:48.05.
On the second day the organizers took out about 10 gates to make the course a lot faster. National team skier Madison McLeish, who is home while recovering from an injury, posted a very speedy time of 5:13.42, followed by Julia Murray in 5:19.74 and Leslie Firstbrook in 5:24.93. Rounding out the top 10 were Janine Linder Joris in 5:32.50, Brittany McGovern in 5:33.00, Kary Firstbrook in 5:41.92, Astrid Grandi in 5:42.70, Wendy Harrison in 5:42.70, Julia Vagelatos in 5:58.98 and Michelle Dehne 10th in 6:00.14.
Davey Barr won the men's event on Saturday in 4:57.38, followed by provincial ski cross coach and former World Cup racer Chris Kent in 5:06.97 and Ben Sittel in 5:16.19. Rounding out the top 10 were Jayme Smithers in 5:16.48, John Muzzillo in 5:23.46, Rob Brudar in 5:23.73, Richard Potter in 5:25.43, John Kindree in 5:28.27, Matt Macartney in 5:28.60 and Takamine Kato in 5:29.15.
Team Results (Top 3 only):
Category VI — 250 years and up
1. Lloyd Henderson, Lou Fenninger, Joy Fera and Bob Deeks — 25:16.88
2. Jules Lajoie, Butch White, Bernard Kahlert and Terry Daly — 25:56.73
3. Grace Oaks, David Trussler, Randall Carpenter and Irene Collins — 27:05.28
Category V — 225-249
1. Brian Cameron, John Townsend, Geordie Trusler and Kary Firstbrook — 24:16.75
2. Chris Sadler, Michael Owen, Grant Wilson and Jane Wilson — 25:41.30
3. Andrée Janyk, Christopher Vajda, Ted Astels and Neil Baker — 25:46.19
Category IV — 200-224
1. Steve Fleckenstein, Liz Thompson, Dave Johnston and Ken Wills — 23:02.03
2. Peter Lyall, Jamie Edwards, Robert Mitchell and Wendy Harrison — 23:38.67
3. Akiko Takemoto, Don Hosek, Ed Russell and John Muzzillo — 25:42.45
Category III — 175-199
1. Tony Callen, Maureen Vlases, Matt Macartney and Bill Vlases — 25:01.32
2. Doug Carter, Chris Boswell, Denise Holleran Boswell and Leslie Firstbrook — 25:06.46
3. Mark Crawford, Victoria Fenninger, Richard Potter and Bob Mayer — 25:30.71.
Category II — 150-174
1. Rob Boyd, Aleisha Cline, Madison McLeish and Chris Kent — 21:45.29
2. Ryan Oughtred, Phil Beauregard, Astrid Grandi and Jayme Smithers — 21.51:55
3. Eric Rey, Stan Rey, Janine Linder Joris and Takamine Kato — 22:04.68
Category I — 149 and Under
1. Luke Dolan, Clay Dolan, Julia Murray and Davey Barr — 21:26.42
2. James McSkimming, Marcus Waring, Wayne Flann and Jennie Small — 23:27.89
3. Justin Ammerlaan, Francois Hebert, Matthew Dobson and Valerie Lees — 25:11.43
Complete results are available online at www.whistlerblackcomb.com/events-and-activities/events-calendar/events/2013/02/peak-to-valley-race.aspx.