Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Ski training run's facelift nearing completion

Upgraded Ptarmigan training run has new slope, better snowmaking

It's taken 10 years and an estimated $5 million in upgrades and improvements, but at last the final pieces of the puzzle have been blasted into even smaller pieces and rearranged to create a dedicated, world-class alpine training facility on Whistler Mountain.

In the run-up to the 2010 Games, the Raven and Ptarmigan runs were given a facelift to make them suitable for training runs during the 2010 Games, but it wasn't until this summer that the run itself could be transformed.

"The whole idea was always to make it a Legacy of the Games, and that all the developments and enhancements on Whistler would have spinoff-benefits to future generations of skiers," said Nigel Loring, executive director of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) - one of the funding partners of the latest hill renovation.

"In general that was felt a lot by the snowmaking infrastructure and also by the widening of the runs, and for the Olympics the athletes used Ptarmigan, but it didn't get to a point where it was viable for racing all of the events. It was good for training and warm-up, but it didn't have an appropriate start area or finish area."

It took a few years to get the fundraising together, but with some assistance from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, the Canadian Snow Sports Association (earmarked for post-Games venues), the Kingsway Foundation and the WMSC's own fundraising efforts, the work did get underway this year.

According to Loring, most of the heavy work has already been completed, and the work to extend the snowmaking system to cover the length of the Ptarmigan run - part of a larger Dave Murray Training Centre - should be completed this week. After that the reshaped run will be covered in organic material and replanted with vegetation.

The project covers around 400 metres of slope, and will create a dedicated training run from the top to bottom of the Garbanzo Chair, with an open space at the bottom for racers and spectators.

"The project we're actually working on, which is only 400 metres of the mountain, proved to be one of the more challenging engineering challenges as far as the difficulty in re-grading it and getting anything done," said Loring adding that it was really rugged terrain. There were cliffs that had to be repositioned, which meant 10,000 cubic metres of rock blown up, scraped up and relocated. After that was done it all has to be realigned so that it had a good slope for ski racing.

The work to complete the centre is still ongoing. One day there should be a timing hut at the bottom and new facilities at the top as well.

While the WMSC is the main proponent and beneficiary of the dedicated training run, the slope will also be used to host races and camps, from zone and provincial races to the national level. For example, many of the on-mountain events like the Kokanee Valley Race Series will take place on the run.

It's also not just for ski racing, but will be made available to other groups like ski cross, snowboard racing and telemark. Coach Rob Boyd will be in charge of booking teams and events to use the slope, as well as organizing the WMSC's own programs.

Loring said it's impossible to say just how much having a dedicated race run will mean for the club.

"It's absolutely huge," he said. "Keep in mind that the club and Whistler Blackcomb have always had a great relationship ... and we've done well working with them, but this really creates a home for ski racing in Whistler that wasn't there previously - not even with the Dave Murray Downhill. That was not a facility we could utilize on a regular basis or shut down because it cut across so much of the mountain.

"The Ptarmigan also provides us with opportunities we didn't have with Dave Murray or Franz's, such as a lift that connects the bottom of the run back to the top. It's also on the other side of the mountain and it's not as plagued by mid-mountain fog that hung over the Dave Murray track whenever we wanted to do something. It's north facing so we don't have any sun issues, and so on.

"For the club it's home for ski racing and we know day-in and day-out where we will be training, and what events its' possible to host there."

The club has been busy in general even without the work on the new run and training facility. Since the end of the last winter season they've hosted several busy on-snow camps with athletes, as well as dryland training camps that were well attended. A group of 12 athletes with the club are heading to Valle Nevado, Chile on Sunday for a camp, and in the beginning of November another group will be heading to Colorado.