feature 449 

By Kristen Robinson There is a fun park in Ontario, a short drive from Toronto, called Canada's Wonderland. In my youth the gang would gather together pop bottles, a couple of weeks of allowance and loose change we'd find in our couches for our annual trip to the land of cotton candy, life-size Fred Flintstones and the best roller coasters in the universe. It was the summer that Madonna was singing about expressing yourself and my father was chanting expressing yourself is fine, but do you have to do it with all that make up on? Yes Daddy, apparently I did. My gal pals and I spent hours picking just the right ensembles, we painted on our faces and accessorized with the biggest hooped earrings that only could be found in stores like Stitches and Le Chateau. This particular trip we caught a ride with a guy named Tony in his swanky Z28. Ton took the top off (fortunately we had applied just enough hair spray so that the wind blew right over our hair), he adjusted the bass to pulsating on his fancy stereo and on the way we discussed our mission: to ride the latest and greatest roller coaster at Canada's Wonderland. We arrived at the fun park and ran right to the roller coaster. We lined up to get in the first car of the coaster. Once seated, the attendant adjusted the safety bars that locked us in. After a safety check, the attendant gave the thumbs up and we were off. The roller coaster slowly climbed up to what felt like 100 feet from heaven and stopped. In front of us was the first of several double back flips. Seconds later, I was on what I thought — until very recently — was the ride of my life. At some point during the first back flip, my hooped earrings clipped on to the safety bar. For the rest of the ride, while the coaster took us frontwards and backwards and my cotton candy reached new heights and came back down again, my head ricochet off the safety bars. Fun? You bet. The ride of my life? No. That Canada's Wonderland ride ranks a distant second to last weekend’s Whistler Ski Classic, wacky roller coaster extravaganza. Along for the ride were Weasels and snowmakers, sponsors and racers, event organizers and race fans young and old. And sitting in the drivers seat, flexing her muscles and illustrating her insane sense of humour and slight schizophrenia was Ms. Mother Nature. I could write a War and Peace-sized novel about the ups and downs of this festival. The pages would be filled with stories of selfless community-minded volleys who shoveled and boot packed. Those who took time off of their important lives and did it all — not for money, not for fame but for their love and commitment to ski racing. One chapter would be dedicated to the talented local musicians who donated their time to play in the rain, in the hail, for a very brief moment in the sunshine and in sub zero temperatures. I'd write about the two mornings Rob Boyd, Michel Beaudry and I spent at the high school where we were greeted by sparkly eyed students and kind hearted teachers. My tales would touch on the endless meetings that the leaders of the W5 Foundation spent planning the intricacies of a world-class World Cup event in early season. And I might have even mentioned those who sat back in their comfortable armchairs and from a distance whined, snivelled and complained about how they could do it better. But this is not a War and Peace-sized novel, this is a feature and I'm running out of space. So, with what space is left I'd like to share some of the many classic moments that will forever remain etched in my kooky little brain: Thursday: 5 o'clock (one hour before the outdoor street party) Weather update: freezing rain, really windy Where: Village Race Status: Training runs cancelled for the day One of my favourite characters around town, Mr. Mark MacLaurin, makes his way to Citta's patio. He sits down at one of the patio tables next to a propane heater, pulls out a well carved stick and a jumbo bag of marshmallows. The man that many refer to as Mushroom Mark, skilfully places a few marshmallows on the roasting stick and kindly offers perfectly toasted gooey snacks to passersby. He offers me one, I pop it in my mouth and my taste buds are awakened by the most delicious marshmallow I've ever had. It was at that moment, Mr. Mark MacLaurin magically transformed into Marshmallow Mark. Friday: 3 o'clock Weather Update: the skies part Where: Village Race Status: Earlier in the day, CBC reports the race is cancelled Festival Director Maureen Douglas calls me to say, the race is officially back on. The skies have parted, the November sun is beating down on my brow, my earlier frown turns upside down, I gently turn my head to scream to the world that the race is back on and Cary Mullen is standing right beside me. Yes. There is a God. And his initials are C.M. Saturday: 9 a.m. Weather Update: Puking Where: Creekside Race Status: cancelled Where are all the people? After a couple of complimentary Nabob coffees, I figure it out. Everyone is in the alpine skiing powder. The Creekside merchants had spent weeks organizing a pancake breakfast fund-raiser. By 9 a.m. only one person had coughed up the four bucks for the breakfast of champions. Seven of them are manning the area just in case there is a rush. Despite slow sales, their spirits remained high. Out of the old gondola barn strolls street performer Cherry Lou. She saunters over to two little people and quietly mentions to them that, "there are still hidden cameras on the mountain, and that she overheard it was going to be a slow sports day so they should ski like gods and perhaps they will make the 6 o'clock news." The two little smurfs shrill with delight and head for the hills. Saturday: 10:30 a.m. Weather Update: Still puking, good snowman-making snow Where: Creekside Race Status: still cancelled Chasmophile's Fiona Burke, John Nally from Revolution Hair Group and an entourage of five-star models patiently wait for the CBC crew to stop filming so they can do their fashion show and get the *%#@@ out of there. Fiona's shop is to open in 10 minutes, John has half an hour till his next appointment and all the models have better things to do (like watching paint dry). The music starts and a crowd of at least 10 is watching the fabulous fashion show featuring luscious locks and outstanding outerwear. Maureen Douglas and I are providing the fashion show commentary. Some guy from Washington named Tom in the audience claps after every model whirls and twirls down the runway and post-show gives all of us a standing ovation. Tom from Washington, if you happen to be reading this, we love you, too. Saturday: 4:30 p.m. Weather Update: Pouring rain Where: Village Mainstage Race Status: Done like dinner, not a hope in... you get the idea Music at the Base competitor Dale Lachance has been playing his guitar and singing for at least an hour. It is pouring rain, it's freakin' freezing and talented performer continues to play. Throughout his extendo-set, Dale Lachance has kept the crowd singing, dancing and is single handily responsible for onlookers not suffering from hypothermia. During most of his performance, a crew of two giant size guys are attempting to set up a jumbo tent. Halfway through Sympathy for the Devil, with the crowd singing backup, Dale looks out onto his adoring fans and all he sees is the cracks of the two tent guys butts staring back at him. What I once referred to as plumbers butt has now officially been changed to tent guys butts. Saturday: 5 p.m. Weather Update: Still raining Where: Village Mainstage with Maureen Douglas and Gord Rutherford Race Status: You know This is when the super G bib draw was scheduled to happen. No race, no bib draw. Had to kill time. We pull five contestants out of the audience and ask them to describe in 20 words or less, just how freezing they were and whoever had the most pathetically freezing story would win a fleece from Roots. The first four contestants told semi-pathetic stories however it was our final contestant who explained that, "he was so pathetically cold that a popsicle would stick to his head," while whipping off his hat and displaying his bald head. The crowd went wild and popsicle head went home with a fancy new fleece. This year’s festival theme was building traditions and even without the races, we did just that. Together, we celebrated our greatest asset: us. To those of you who volunteered your precious time and to those who came out and supported our events through rain, snow, sleet and hail: Thank you. In about 365 sleeps let's try again, 'cause you know what they say about ski races, "three times lucky."

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