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Feature - A Whistler tradition

Everyone who competes in the Appleton Rum Peak to Valley has a story, but the race itself is also a story about Whistler


By G.D. Maxwell

The best time ever posted in a full Peak to Valley race was 4:52.03. That's four minutes, fifty-two and three one-hundredths seconds. The year was 2000, the course was more or less 5.6 km long and the math works out to an average speed of just about 70 km/h.

The slowest time ever recorded in the race was 29:03.50, almost half an hour. The course was shorter and the average speed was on par with a brisk walk.

Chris Kent enjoys the distinction of holding the first record. Rita Pollack, who rumour has it stopped part way down the course for a few revitalizing swallows of some mysterious liquid sloshing around in a wineskin, can lay claim to the second. Both are reputed to have had a howling good time setting their respective records.

It's just that kind of race.

The details of Rita's race are a bit sketchy. It was held on a single day, March 22, 1985 and sponsored by Schloss Laderheim, billing itself as "Canada's Favorite Wine." Forty teams of four people ran the race, 160 in total. The start line was near the top of the T-bars in Glacier Bowl and the finish line was at the Creekside base. It was the very first full-blown Peak to Valley race.

The Dynasties

Aside from being the first real Peak to Valley - there had been a race in 1984 after the World Cup but it was run just from the top of the downhill course - the 1985 race was notable for a number of other reasons. The aforementioned slowest time on record was one. The race's instant success was another. And, from a historical perspective, the fact it spawned what would become two of the longest running team dynasties in the race's 20 year history is a third.

The race was won, if that term can really be applied to the Peak to Valley, by a team called Frankie Goes to the Valley, reputedly named after the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Their combined time was 24:42.79 or nearly five minutes quicker than Rita's solo run. The team consisted of Sue Boyd who clocked the fastest time of any woman that year, 6:14.23, exactly 20 seconds off John Kindree's fastest men's time, Bob Boyer and the two men who would prove to be the team's enduring nucleus: Julien Soltendieck and Shawn Hughes.

Frankie raced as a team, with a few personnel changes - most notably the acquisition of the lightning fast June Brandon, later Southwell, who'd raced with the B.C. provincial ski team - for 16 years. In 11 of those races they won their age category. In 1985, '86, '88 and '92 they won the whole race. Aside from a DSQ in 1993, the team never finished lower than eighth place, a remarkable feat considering for many of those years they were granting a substantial age handicap to the winners and at least some of them were reputed to be fuelled by substances better left unmentioned but generally not considered performance-enhancing. Their accomplishment is all the more remarkable considering the team lacked what were generally regarded as "ringers".