The World Ski And Snowboard Festival has returned to Whistler, taking place from April 10th-15th. During this time, events featuring music, art, and skiing will take over the resort. What's new on the usual list of things to do, is the addition of the infamous big mountain ski race, Couloir Extreme. The race has a long history that's intertwined with the growth of the resort itself. The last one of its kind took place in 2001; But, what makes it even more exciting is it's reputation as being extreme!
The Couloir Extreme race first took place in spring of 1987. According to the Whistler Museum, it was advertised as “2,500 square feet of thigh burning hell.” The traditional course ran 2,500 feet from the top of Couloir Extreme and down to the bottom of Jersey Cream Chair on Blackcomb Mountain.
It came to be as a result of the alpine on Blackcomb being developed and the resort wanting to create an event that would highlight the terrain in the area. Since Couloir Extreme was the only double black run at the time, it was perfect to demonstrate the challenging topography. To this day, the run is rated as one of the top 10 steep in-bound runs in the world according to Ski Magazine.
The race carried on year after year into the 90's and early 2000's. It no surprise that the carnage and puckering steepness of the course was immensely popular with spectators. So popular that a prevalent Canadian sports channel began broadcasting it as a special on television!
Originally, the run wasn't called Couloir Extreme. In fact, it was named Saudan Couloir after Sylvain Saudan, a French skier who was well-known for tackling steep lines and who could very well be the father of extreme skiing. Unfortunately, Saudan did not authorize the use of his name. This recently lead to Whistler Blackcomb having to change the name to Couloir Extreme.
Taking place on Saturday, April 14, 2018 & Sunday, April 15, 2018, Couloir Extreme is set to be revived. Other than the date, not much information has been released about this year's race; nonetheless, it is an exciting addition to the World Ski and Snowboard festival event line-up. If you are considering joining big-mountain athletes and ski racers as they attempt to take home the winning spot, make sure to log some hours on the run itself- no one wants to tumble down that chute.
Oh, and don't forget your spandex!