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Museum Musings: Maximum exposure

'In late March and early April, 1980, Whistler Mountain had a very busy week of events, only some of which it planned to host'
The Labatt World Cup Freestyle Championships on Whistler Mountain.

Some weeks are busier than others, whether planned that way or brought about through unexpected changes. In late March and early April, 1980, Whistler Mountain had a very busy week of events, only some of which it planned to host.

The Labatt World Cup Freestyle Championships were scheduled to take place on Grouse Mountain from March 28 to 30. However, by March 20 it was announced warm weather meant Grouse would be unable to host the competition.

“It’s unfortunate, but we had to face the fact that we would have to move an enormous amount of snow to provide a safe and adequate ballet and mogul course,” said Peter McKay-Smith, spokesperson for Grouse.

Instead, the three-day event featuring about 100 skiers from around the world was shifted to Whistler Mountain.

Canadian skiers were looking strong heading into the competition, with Stephanie Sloan and Greg Athans leading the women’s and men’s divisions. Along with ballet, aerial, and moguls competitions, a pro-am mogul bash was also planned for March 26 to help set up the bumps ahead of the mogul competition on the upper T-bar headwall. Teams of three consisted of one professional and two amateur skiers, and the event was used as a warm up for both competitors and the lift company.

As with many events held on Whistler Mountain, the weather was not all that cooperative. Conditions for the World Cup Ballet Championships held on Friday, March 28 were described as “somewhat unfriendly with blowing snow and high winds,” even blowing out the fencing and banners that lined the course near the top of the Little Red Chair. The mogul event scheduled for Saturday, March 29 had to be postponed after 35 centimetres of snow fell on the course.  Both the moguls and aerials took place on Sunday, March 30, making for a busy and tiring day for competitors. All of this was followed by a presentation ceremony at the base of the lifts where, having both held onto their leads, Athans and Sloan were crowned World Cup Freestyle Champions. Sponsored by Labatt, there was also $30,000 in prize money given out.

Though running the World Cup Freestyle might seem like enough for one week, there were also downhill races running on Whistler Mountain Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (March 30 to April  2). While freestyle skiers demonstrated their acrobatic abilities, a Nancy Greene Ski League GS race was held on part of the Orange Chair downhill (today part of Upper Dave Murray Downhill).  About 50 skiers aged six to 14 from the Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) and the Red Mountain Ski Club of Rossland raced to earn points for their clubs. In the end, Red Mountain came out ahead with 197 points to Whistler’s 154. The top-placing WMSC racer in 7th place was Willy Raine (son of Nancy Greene and Al Raine).

Even as the freestyle competitions went on and young skiers raced down the GS course, slightly older junior racers trained on the Back Bowl course for two downhill races held Monday and Tuesday (April 1 and 2). These races made up the first Bob Parsons Memorial Downhill race, named for one of the founding Weasel Workers and chief of course for many downhill races on Whistler Mountain before his death in 1979.

These races were restricted to racers who were “up and coming” with “100 FIS points or more.” Unlike the freestyle events, both downhill race days were cold and clear, and the event went smoothly. Over the two days, Jill Warland of Kimberley and Jamie Parsons (fittingly the son of Bob Parsons) came in first in both downhills, and the Bob Parsons Memorial Trophy was awarded to Jamie by his mother, Lee.

According to the Whistler Question editorial following all these events, Whistler Mountain came through with “a minimum of confusion and a maximum of exposure,” leading to a lot of positive publicity for the growing resort.