Sunday, January 25, 2009

World Cup Ski Jumping at Whistler

I'm currently up at Whistler, British Columbia skiing with my son and several of his pilot friends. This is an annual trip, but this year was made more special by the fact that this year is also the run-up to next year's Vancouver Winter Olympics. As a result, most of the World Cup events are being run in Whistler this year to test the venues in preparation for next year's Winter Olympics.

Saturday and Sunday were the World Cup Ski Jumping competition. So we decided to take a day off from skiing on Sunday to go watch. The World Cup Ski Jump was free, although those without transportation had to pay $15 to take a shuttle bus from the Whistler village to the venue, which is a considerable way south of Whistler.

While the event was fantastic, and we were able to get incredibly close to the competition (as you can see from these photos), getting to the venue left much to be desired, and the VOC (Vancouver Olympic Committee) will have to do a lot to improve things before the world turns its attention to Whistler next year.

We left the village around 10am to make the short drive to the venue, which is 6 miles south of the village and then about 4 miles up a dead-end road into a secluded valley. The Nordic venue is brand new and houses both the ski jump hill and the cross country events. The turn off from the main road is not well marked and has no traffic control. Once we started up the road, we quickly encountered bumper-to-bumper traffic. Evidently, a lot of people decided to go check out the event.

We spent more than an hour slowly moving up toward the event. But there are absolutely no signs along the road, so we had no way of knowing if we were getting close or had miles to go. Word finally filtered back through the line that there was no more parking and officials were turning cars back. Rather than give up, we parked the car along the side of the road and hailed a taxi.

That was a good decision, because by the time we got to the jump hill, the final round of competition had already started. They said later that there were 20,000 people at the event, but the crowd looked much smaller than that. We had no problem getting very close to the end of the run-out at the base of the jump hill.

The ski jumping was incredible. As we watched, the competition moved into the final group of 10 that had the longest jumps in the first round. The jumps just kept getting longer and longer, with several jumps beyond 140 meters.

But then a jumper went an incredible 149 meters, setting a new hill record. So next year, when you watch the Olympic Ski Jump and hear them talk about the hill record, remember I was there.

We stayed for the medal ceremony and then hailed a cab back to where we had parked the car. We were back in Whistler Village by 1:30pm. And who won, G. Schlierenzauer from Austria won the gold, Thomas Morgenstern from Austrai the silver, and Ville Larinto from Finland took the bronze.

You can see more photos on my Flickr site.

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