By Andrew Mitchell
It wasn’t all that long ago when Manuel Osborne-Paradis, a double World Cup downhill medal winner this season, was a member of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club getting his first taste of speed competition in the annual Bob Parsons Memorial Downhill.
Producing skiers like Osborne-Paradis is what Bob Parsons himself had in mind when he began to organize the Back Bowl Downhill races on Whistler Mountain to introduce younger skiers to skiing fast in a safe, controlled way.
Though Parsons died in 1979, the downhill tradition he started more than a decade earlier was kept alive through his children, grandchildren and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club as The Bob Parsons Memorial Downhill. The race turns 27 this year as it returns this weekend with a pair of regional super G races for K2 athletes aged 13-14.
Participating clubs include Whistler, Grouse, Cypress, Seymour, Hemlock and Mt. Washington. The course is open for training Thursday and Friday, with races getting underway at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Jeff Hume, a WMSC coach and former member of the national team, is also hosting a speed camp for K1 racers that is open to all skiers from the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
“Hosting speed events at age six to 10 should be as regular as training slalom and giant slalom,” said Nigel Cooper, program director for the WMSC. “The elements of straight running, tucking, carving high speed turns, jumping and stopping are all important skills that can be taught early. We train them at K1 (ages 11-12), but hope in a few years to take advantage of the windows of opportunity that exist as the kids grow and develop. The Norwegians are training speed from seven years of age and currently have one of the strongest development systems in the world.”
The awards presentation will take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 28 at Olympic Plaza in Creekside.
Among other claims to fame, Bob Parsons helped to start the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, and was part of the original Weasel Workers who have helped to run ski races in Whistler and around the world since the 1970s. He was also Chief of Course for all major downhill races in Whistler until his death.