30 October, 2009

Whistler Race Cancelled..... Again.

Whistler has been putting on a fantastic ski mountaineering race (The Spearhead Passage) and National Championships for the past few years, excluding last year, as a result of no sponsors stepping up to the plate.  North Face and ROI the original sponsors of the event, did not have enough money to help fund the race last year, and as a result the North American Championships did not happen.  Unfortunately, this remains a problem, and the Spearhead Passage is still on hold.

The Continental Championships was an important race to have here in North America.  Last year, when the Whistler race was canceled, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) lost its bid for Skimo racing to become an Olympic sport.  “Part of the criteria for the IOC to accept a sport as an event is there has to be well-established regional and national competitions,” explain Jayson Faulkner, Canada's Coordinator for Ski Mountaineering Development.  So for now, we are yet another year behind in a Olympic Bid, due to no Continental Championship race.  Luckily enough, Ian Gale and Kicking Horse Mountain, took the sharp end and provided a savage race, the Dogtooth Dash as Canada's National Championships.

The major hurtle in funding this race is due to it's backcountry travel. The insurance, volunteers and planning is a heavy weight to lift.  Alternatives were explored, such as a shorter course on Blackcomb making the overall race much more technical and steep, but possibly more inexpensive.  The funding sourced still did not cover these costs, and Whistler Blackcomb did not want to take on more responsibilities with the Olympics this year.

Another year, of planning and even finding some sponsors, The Spearhead Passage is still without a major corporate sponsor and unable to put on this fantastic race.  The 26km race, holding 2130m (7000ft) of elevation gain, the only true backcountry event, and Canada's longest skimo race will happen, but not this year.  Not only is there a short course, as an alternative option to the long course, but also a vertical race the day after.  In a place like Whistler, that hosts the Olympics, holds multiple World Cups, and sees more visitors than many other resorts in the Country it is surprising Whistler Blackcomb and other sponsors aren't sweeping in to rescue this race.

With the Canadian Coast in need of a race, The Escape Route, are trying to put on a weekly or bi-montly series to fill the void.  The race series will not award ISMF points, but are being designed as a series, and hopefully pave the way for future races and events.  With more races that begin to pop up, the more publicity, and more support ski mountaineering races will recieve.


  1. It still blows my mind that skimo is not an Olympic sport, while ski ballet is. 'Nuff said.

  2. That's a real bummer Alex, The Spearhead was a great race. I still remember hobbling over the finish line. Keep us posted on the coastal "toonie" races, it sounds like they might be worth heading west for. I heard that there was an "unoficial" spearhead traverse last year... chances of that happening again? ...oh, and thanks for the props!

  3. There has been an unofficial Spearhead Traverse race for the past few years. It's called Blowhole To Black's. It was pretty small last year but it would be great to have a bunch of people out to hammer this year, I'll let everyone know later in the year, probably April sometime.

    There have been some efforts to make this official though as well.

  4. The sponsorship is an issue with these races for sure.

    From my experience, I know that for the time I spent phoning and arranging to get something for Mountain Storm I could have just worked 2-3 weeks of 12h shifts and the thing would have been paid for. No problems, no uncertainties. So this season I had to cancel it as well.

    So now we are down back to 4 events in Canada... For the 2011 I will try to get the race going again thus we can grow the sport more.

  5. The 2011 Season should have this race back up. At least this year there should be some renegade racing out here. We will be actively be searching for sponsors throughout the next year, as Canada needs a long course.

    Hopefully we can get the Spearhead Traverse as a sanctioned race!

  6. Canada really does need a long race! Let us know if there's anything you need a hand with for Spearhead, it's alot to do for one person, but quite managable with a crew of vollys.

  7. The volunteers are there, in place, as well as all our Mountain Guides for the Backcountry stations. It's the sponsorship funding that it lacks. If a sponsor were to come along today, it would happen for sure.

  8. So it seems like you have everything in place but not the sponsor.

    Do you have any sponsors at all and just not one big one?

    From my experience and knowledge of tha Canadian skimo racing scene I am going to poke into something:

    Does the Whistler race have to be run on a $20,000+? Cannot it be done on about $5,000-10,000, or at least some kind of a race?

    I know that you guys want the best race possible but only make it happen with such a high budget isn't sustainable. This is a fact, that's were our sport is in Canada (and elsewhere too).

    If we all required on that much from the few possible sponsors there are we would never had any races in Canada.

    I don't want to be rude or smart ass, but for $20,000 we can run 3-4 races on the circuit, never mind one. Of course, it wouldn't be money-making enterprise but that's how it's done so far, and will be for next 10 years. We better get used to it.

    So can some race be run at Whistler for about $5,000-7,000?

    ACC is paying for insurance, the biggest cost there is, people are willing to help out, so what else is needed to pull this off. How much, whether this season or next?

  9. The Whistler race is less than $20,000, and we did have a few sponsors. However, they were unable to fund it this year unfortunately. We have looked into various different funding options, and also other race options, to reduce cost, and/or just have something go. The goal is to have a Whistler race period. Whether it is a monster long distance, or a quick quiet hammer, we want it to happen. As long as we have a sponsor we're good to go!

  10. I was running the Mountain Storm on about $3500 of cash, most of that my own money. Would that be an amount you guys can work with? Or what it would be?

    I am keen to post an article about the race getting potentially cancelled and ask sponsors to step up. What do you think, should I write something like that in such a manner?

  11. With so much response to this blog post, emails, and great ideas. I will be looking into a few more ideas for funding, and get some info, perhaps some new corporate sponsors we haven't tried before.