Winter Olympics Countdown
With the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, less than a month away, ski resorts across British Columbia are rekindling memories of past Olympic glory and rooting for a new generation of athletes, many of whom spent their formative years on local slopes.
From Whistler, site of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, to resorts in the Rockies, B.C. has been a proving ground for generations of Canadian Olympic competitors.
Take Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. “It’s such a great training ground no matter which skiing or snowboarding discipline we’re talking about,” says Cole Pellerin, a multi-talented TV show host, photographer, skier and part-time Golden, B.C., resident. “It’s grown into one of the gnarliest resorts in Canada. And the number of pro athletes that come from the area is amazing.”
Promising alpine ski racers are emerging from the local club, while medal contender David Duncan lived and trained in Golden before he joined the national ski cross team.
These days, the resort produces many top extreme skiers and snowboarders, the women and men who ride in action sport movies or compete on the Freeride World Tour, an extreme skiing contest.
This winter, Kicking Horse hosts the only North American stop for the top-tier circuit, as well as lower- level contests.“The resort doesn’t need to create any kind of man-made features,” says Mr. Pellerin. “It’s already better than anywhere else when it comes to cliffs, chutes and steeps.”
Another resort with plenty of steeps owes its existence to the Olympics. Locals built Fernie Alpine Resort in the hopes of winning the 1968 Winter Olympics, which were held in Grenoble, France.
Since then, Fernie Alpine Resort has hosted several dryland summer training camps for the national alpine team. The athletes come to run, hike, mountain bike and connect as a team as they lay the foundation for the competitive season.
Kimberley Alpine Resort’s connection is also strong – the town even named the main road leading to the resort after its most successful homegrown alpine skier, Gerry Sorensen. She competed in alpine speed events, winning the World Cup Downhill in 1982 and competing at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo.
More recently, Kimberley’s connection is with former resident Trennon Paynter. He lived in Kimberley until he was recruited to coach the Canadian National Ski Halfpipe Team in 2011. As head coach, he helped Mike Riddle land a silver medal in Sochi.
Sun Peaks, Canada’s second largest ski area, is the home of Olympic champion and Canada’s female athlete of the century, Nancy Greene Raine. Ms. Greene Raine has called Sun Peaks home since 1994 and loves to share her knowledge and passion with guests visiting the resort. Skiers can join her to for a free tour, which is bound to include a few pointers along the way.
Of course, Whistler Blackcomb retains its Olympic shine eight years after it co-hosted Vancouver 2010. But its Olympic history reaches back to the 1960s and the birth of the resort when a group of Vancouver businessmen searched for a site that would be suitable for the Olympics. They settled on Whistler Mountain and built the resort but lost the bid to host the games – at least until 2010.
The legacy of Vancouver 2010 begins on the drive up to the resort with the improved Sea-to-Sky Highway.
The sliding venue at Blackcomb Mountain is home to Whistler Sport Legacies, that hosts daily opportunities to try bobsled, skeleton and luge on the Olympic track.
At the Whistler Olympic Park, many cross-country ski events enable skiers to race on the same trails as the 2010 Olympians, while downhill skiers can do the same on Whistler Mountain’s Dave Murray Downhill and other runs.
Or take it up a notch and ski the run with an actual Olympian. Whistler Blackcomb runs programs where small groups can spend the day exploring the resort with Olympic alumni and Whistler locals like skier cross gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor, three-time Olympian Mike Janyk or half pipe snowboarder Mercedes Nicoll.
Rob Boyd, the decorated downhill racer and competitor at the Calgary Olympics, lives in Whistler but grew up and learned to ski at SilverStar Mountain Resort. His parents helped start the ski area above the town of Vernon, and today the resort is still home to several Olympians.
SilverStar ski instructor Glenn Wurtele coached the men’s national ski team along with Vernon Ski Club president Murray Smith. But the most decorated athlete in town is Paralympic sit-ski champ Josh Dueck, who won silver in 2010 and gold and silver in 2014, along with a treasure trove of medals from other sit-ski racing events.
As an international Race Training Centre, Panorama Mountain Resort hosts provincial, national and international teams for pre-season racing and training.
This year, that included the Canadian development and Swiss national teams. It is also the home training venue for Canadian para-alpine ski teams. No surprise the resort has produced several Olympians over the years, including current alpine speedsters Benjamin Thomsen and Amelia Smart. The resort is also home to Canada’s top downhiller and two-time Olympian Manny Osborne-Paradis.
Big White Ski Resort claims its own two-time Olympian, ski-cross medalist Kelsey Serwa. Big White sponsors a trio of locals headed for PyeongChang: Ms. Serwa, fellow ski-cross athlete Ian Deans and snowboard cross star Tess Critchlow. After she returns from South Korea, Ms. Serwa is offering exclusive coaching sessions at Big White. Individuals and small groups can spend the day with her gleaning ski-cross, race tips and general ski advice from the Olympic silver medalist.
Gary Athans, now a local realtor who competed at the 1984 winter Olympics at Lake Placid, and who was honoured to carry the flame for the Vancouver 2010 winter Olympics, spends his winters skiing with his family at Big White Ski Resort.
At Revelstoke Mountain Resort, the Olympics are about the future. The strong backcountry ski community attracts the country’s best competitive ski mountaineer racers. Popular in Europe, the event combining skiing up as well as down mountains is growing quickly in Canada, and many of the top athletes live in Revelstoke. They’re attracted by the deep snow, big vertical and excellent skiing in and out of the resort’s ski area. The international governing body for the sport has been working hard to get it into the Olympics.
A twist on ski mountaineering with a taste of the Olympics takes place during the Whitewater Ski Resort’s Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Festival, held on the last weekend of PyeongChang 2018, February 23 to 25. The annual festival celebrates all things powder skiing with concerts and culture in town, and clinics, demos and competition on the hill.
One of the highlights is The North Face Backcountry Olympics. Teams of three race up the hill, find an avalanche beacon buried in the snow, build a rescue toboggan, load one of their teammates and ski to the base, make a fire and cook an egg. The teams are given points for their overall time, their toboggan construction, and bonus points go to the first team to cook and eat their egg.
As they show in Whitewater, when it comes to celebrating the Olympics in B.C. ski country, it’s as much about the competition as it is about fun and games.
Discover one of British Columbia’s world-class ski resorts this winter.
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Making memories at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
Welcome to a place where Mother Nature entertains – not only past Olympians like Eddie the Eagle, but future stars too – as Kicking Horse is home to the only Freeride World Tour stop in North America. That says a lot as the tour organizers pick only the best terrain variety and incredible snow for this prestigious event.
But hey, Kicking Horse is also a fun and family-friendly destination, with an array of ski -in/ski-out lodging offered in a class all on its own.
Recently awarded Warren Miller’s Best Ski Destination, Best Panoramic Views, and # 1 in Powder & Best Snow in North America, Kicking Horse is also known for having North America’s 4th biggest vertical and the most variety of terrain in the Canadian Rockies region.
This is one big horse! There’s skiing/riding for every ability level; terrain from high in the alpine bowls to intermediate cruisers, plus the kid and family-only designated areas. At night, kick back in front of your cosy fireplace, or refresh in the hot tub, while the kids enjoy snow play. Take treasured memories home, and leave a field of snowmen for others to enjoy!