Listening to the grunts of the racers as they steered their way around the last dozen gates, you get a good idea just how physically and mentally demanding the annual Appleton Rum Peak to Valley Race really is.
The average World Cup giant slalom has about a 250 metre vertical drop. The Peak to Valley GS race on Feb. 1 and 2 has a drop of 1,443 metres and 180 gates, covering a distance of more than 5.6 kilometres. And it was another sellout with over 320 racers in 80 teams of four. All teams had to have at least one female to enter.
Once again, judging by the wide variety of ski suits on display, several generations of alpine racers, including former Team Canada members, were well represented at the race.
Because of the vastly different skiing conditions on both race days sticky snow and low visibility on Friday, icy conditions and better visibility on Saturday race times were a little slower on day one.
The top racer on Friday was Whistlers Jamie Finlayson who competed for Wild Willies II. The 21 year old was on the national development team for three seasons and a top prospect for the World Cup team until he was forced to retire due to illness. He now has his arthritis under control and next year is planning to once again qualify for the national team. B.C. Alpine is accepting donations on his behalf to help him realize this dream.
He will be racing in the next Pontiac Cup speed events at Apex this weekend against development team skiers and the top skiers in B.C. and Alberta. He won the downhill event last year without any training.
His finish time of five minutes 38.57 seconds was the fastest of the day.
Within that time, he covered an average of 16.54 metres of ground per second, and dropped an average of 4.2 metres. Those numbers are even more impressive when you factor in the flat spots.
Not only did Finlaysons time help his team to win the title, he also unseated perennial Peak to Valley champion Chris Kent, who was also racing on Friday with the Wild Willies I team. Prior to last weekends race, Kent, a ski coach and former World Cup racer, had won the Peak to Valley title eight out of the past nine years.
The second-fastest time on Friday, 5:47.12, belonged to Mark Anderson. Kents time of 5:47.24 put him in third place.
The fastest woman on Friday was Whistlers Liz Thompson, who cleared the course in 6:41.34. June Southwell was second in 6:52.30, and Terry Vincent right behind in third with a time of 6:53.46.