Long before cross (BC) — either the ski or snowboard variety — appeared, indeed before snowboards were first seen; before terrain parks; before big mountain freeskiing; before the backcountry became covered in moguls; before snowmobiles made distant peaks accessible; when skis were skinny and the ability to carve a turn on the damn things was a mixture of skill, balance and technique that was as easy to acquire as a PhD, and took just about as long; back then, the kings and queens of the mountains were the ski racers.
Certainly, in many ski racers' minds they were. But also in the minds of most Whistlerites. That was one reason Whistler made repeated attempts, starting in the 1970s, to host World Cup ski races. There weren't many forms of ski competition in those days — freestyle skiing being in decline following a number of disastrous accidents/law suits on the U.S. professional circuit — and so the best skier was easy to determine: he or she was the fastest.
It was a stroke of good timing that the Crazy Canucks — Read, Irwin, Pod and Murr — began to challenge the best in the world at about the same time the fledgling resort of Whistler was trying to make its mark internationally.
In 1982, on its third attempt, Whistler successfully pulled off a World Cup downhill race. The race finished just above the new village, for the first and last time. The course was panned by most as being too flat, but the race itself was a huge success, particularly as Podborski and Irwin finished second and third. Everyone in town — and many, many people came to town that week — was focused on the race. Umberto Menghi got so wrapped up in the festivities he tried to ski with the Italian team... and wound up breaking his leg.
CBC broadcast the race across Canada and provided the feed to European broadcasters, which was one of the first steps in letting the world know about Whistler. And because these were simpler times (BC), much of the skiing world paid attention.
But it wasn't just the world of snow sliding that was simpler; television, too was infinitely narrower than it is today. There were far fewer channels and no specialty channels focused solely on sports or news or weather or movies. You couldn't download a program to your TV and there was no online streaming of events to your computer, assuming you owned one.
In short, everyone in Whistler was focused on the World Cup when it came to town for one week in 1982, and a lot of people outside of Whistler were drawn to the World Cup. Sure, Whistler was a smaller town then, but it was — relatively speaking — a smaller world then, too.