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Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the ‘First Annual Mascot Race’

'After a busy life, eventually it was only mice that wanted to be inside the mascot suit. Ultimately, Willie went the way of Dusty the Horse and ended up in the landfill.'
Mascots making their way up Blackcomb Mountain for the First Annual Mascot Race in 1983.

During the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, it was common to see mascots Quatchi, Miga and Sumi around, as well as their sidekick Mukmuk the marmot. However, before these mascots descended on Whistler, a different marmot mascot ruled the resort. That marmot was known as Willie Whistler.

The Whistler Resort Association (WRA) began operations in 1980 aiming “to promote, facilitate and encourage the development, maintenance and operation of the resort land.” The new mascot of the WRA, Willie Whistler, was introduced in 1981 to promote Whistler. The name “Willie Whistler” was chosen through a competition for local children to “Name the Whistler Marmot.” Eight-year-old Tammi Wick won a Blackcomb season pass for choosing the winning name.

Willie’s first big event was the Fall Festival, an event to celebrate the upcoming winter and bring life to the time of year still known as the shoulder season. Each day of the festival had a scheduled meet-and-greet with Willie Whistler so everyone could get a picture with the new mascot.

Mascots were so popular in the 1980s that the “First Annual Mascot Race” was held on Blackcomb Mountain on March 26, 1983. The race was held as part of the Yukon Jack Challenge, which saw the Pacific Western Pro Tour Finals race on upper Springboard and a “Hospitality Cup”—where local hospitality staff were tasked with minimizing spillage while carrying loaded trays through a challenging obstacle course.

There was no shortage of local mascots to compete in the Mascot Race. The Whistler Question did not mince words when discussing the popularity of the suited figures. ‘Though Pro Tour racers are supposed to hold centre stage for the weekend, they just might lose it for a while to a herd of furred, feathered, and finned mammals who will ramble, scramble and swim their ways up Blackcomb Mountain to participate in the First Annual Mascot Race,” read an article in the paper.

“Confirmed entries in this unpredictable contest include: Whistler’s own famous marmot, Willie Whistler; the race’s sponsor Yukon Jack; E. Bunny, the mystery rabbit, from Blackcomb Mountain; The Mountain Inn’s Delta Duck; the A&W Root Bear; Hemlock the friendly sasquatch; and Bee Bob the Beluga Whale from the Vancouver Aquarium. It will be strictly a case of survival of the fittest in that event.”

Though the mascots featured on the front cover of the Whistler Question the following week, it is unclear who won the First Annual Mascot Race. We also could not find any evidence of the mascot race continuing annually.

Willie Whistler was always in the middle of the action, greeting visitors, shaking hands with dignitaries, playing golf, skiing and presenting awards. After a busy life, eventually it was only mice that wanted to be inside the mascot suit. Ultimately, Willie went the way of Dusty the Horse and ended up in the landfill.