Whistler's bid to host Ironman Canada in 2013 passed a major milestone late last week with confirmation that the bid — put together by the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Tourism Whistler — was shortlisted by the World Triathlon Corporation. Other cities to make the cut include Kelowna and Huntsville, Ontario. Other bids by Vernon, Kamloops, Victoria and Calgary fell short.
There are no details yet about what the course will look like — all details of Whistler's bid are considered confidential as the World Triathlon Corporation is a private organization.
While Whistler was shortlisted, there is a lively debate among Whistler locals whether the resort could pull off the event, which includes a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42.2km run. It also draws over 2,500 athletes each year, and roughly 10,000 spectators were at the start line in Penticton this past August.
Whistler's Grant Lamont, who helped to organize the event for several years and participated in it twice, is one of the skeptics who would like to see the plan for himself. He believes that Whistler could probably host a pretty good Half Iron event or even a "Dustman" long distance off-road triathlon, but can't see how the resort can possibly stage Ironman Canada.
"First of all, we'd probably need to tear down trees everywhere to do a transition," he said. "There isn't a site that can handle 3,000 people and 3,000 bikes," he said.
The mass start swim is also a problem. "A bunch of years ago, the town wanted to move the Ironman start from the Okanagan side to the park at Skaha, but that was rejected because the park at Skaha was considered to be too small — and that park is probably three times the size of Rainbow."
If the bike route heads north to Pemberton, which is the rumour, Lamont also says the quality of the road is not good enough and that the hills back to Whistler are too tough — although the sections through Pemberton and out to the Meadows are flat and have recently been repaved.
"The geography here is fairly hilly. One of the biggest complaints we had from racers in Penticton was that the course was too hilly so (the route was changed), and there are worse hills here. It's steep. And the quality of the surface, it's just terrible... I think it would take a significant upgrade to the highway to make it happen."
While Lamont is skeptical about the course, he does feel the resort has far more in the way of accommodation to offer racers, as well as facilities like Whistler Olympic Plaza and the day lots that are better than what's available in Penticton.