There will be a few obvious changes for the Bob Parsons Memorial Downhill this year, the most obvious being that this years race will be a super G, not a downhill.
Another change is that the race is being held on Rosss Gold on Blackcomb Mountain. Its also taking place a month earlier than usual.
There are two mens and two womens K2 races, ages 13 and 14, scheduled for Feb. 2 and 3. The event regularly draws the top racers from clubs in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
The Bob Parsons Memorial SG and a previous GS at Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island are the qualifying races for the K2 Nationals. The top 18 athletes from the Coast Zone (which includes Whistler, Mt. Seymour, Grouse, Cypress, and Mt. Washington) will represent British Columbia at the K2 Nationals at Panorama in March.
The Bob Parsons Memorial has been a Whistler standard since 1980, giving young racers an opportunity to compete on an authentic downhill course.
Parsons was born and raised in Vancouver, and began skiing in the 1940s with his brothers at Hollyburn and Seymour Mountains. He competed in jumping, Nordic and downhill events.
Whistler Mountain opened in 1966, and Parsons became involved with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club soon afterwards. All of his children raced with the club, and Parsons travelled from race to race with the club, helping in course preparation and setup.
He formed and led the infamous Weasel Workers crew, which was named after the Weasel section of the downhill course that had to be manually packed and groomed with boots, shovels and rakes until winch groomers were invented. The Weasel Workers helped set race courses on the mountain, and Parsons became Chief of Course for all of the major downhill races at Whistler until his death in 1979.
He also helped with the Back Bowl downhills during this time, where the first Parsons Memorial races were held. It has since been held on the Dave Murray and Green Acres courses and the Blackcomb Panorama/Cloud Nine course.
Parsons also helped to found the Vancouver Ski Team, which evolved into the B.C. Ski Team.
Fittingly, his son Jim Parsons won the first Memorial race in 1980. His granddaughter, Alison Leighton, competed with the Whistler club during both her years of eligibility, winning silver and bronze medals.
A memorial trust fund has been set up in Bob Parsons name and bursaries are presented to up and coming ski racers at the annual Bob Parsons Memorial Golf Tournament.