For being a half-century old, the Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) is looking mighty good for its age.
The squad is well in the midst of marking its 50th-anniversary season, holding a gala in Vancouver last month. Executive director Mark Tilston said though the gala was the premier event for the occasion, there are still other events planned.
Tilston noted club members would learn about the club's history at its monthly fun races.
"This year, we'll do a little historical feature highlighting one component of the history of the last 50 years," said Tilston, who added another event is being planned towards the end of the season, though details are still being confirmed.
Speaking from Sun Peaks on Nov. 19, Tilston was feeling optimistic for the on-mountain portion of the 50th campaign, once the mountain itself returns to form.
"Like everyone else, we're hoping that we can get a little more snow at home so we can get some good training back up and running," he said.
Tilston added registration is holding steady at similar levels to last year, and those athletes have already been busy. Whistler Blackcomb opened up its T-bars for summer skiing, while several older athletes went to a training camp in Chile and about one-third of registered athletes have joined Tilston in the Interior.
Tilston, who took over the role in 2015, came in with an eye toward improving athletes' fitness in addition to their skiing. He said there has been an uptick in the number of fitness programming WMSC provides in that timeframe, though there are logistical challenges.
"To an extent, we have (done more). We certainly support a bit more activity going on the fitness side," he said. "We'd certainly like to have athletes doing more sports and (having) a more multisport approach. And then out of the other side of our mouth, we'd like to have them do more fitness (training). If we were then running fitness sessions, there's a good chance it's going to conflict and impact them doing their other sports.
"It's between sports, it's between school, it's between parents and just getting the balance right is a constant challenge."
Tilston has observed his efforts starting to bear some fruit, though he expects greater benefits will come in the future.
"There's a far longer term to really see the results from that. Obviously, it takes a year to two years to make a really significant change on the fitness side, and then it takes a bit of time to be able to transfer that into the skiing," he said. "We're seeing the positive results in terms of transitioning their cultural and lifestyle, albeit with quite a small group."
The season has already gotten off to a successful start with the 50th-anniversary celebration held on Oct. 24.
Organizer and WMSC director Patrick Maloney was impressed with the stars who came out, including Mike Carney, Britt Janyk (now Tilston), Mike Janyk, Mike and Tom Giannelli, and Robbie Dixon.
As part of the evening, attendees were reminded of a bygone era of skiing, with items from the past 50 years on display.
"We brought in memorabilia that people had stashed in their garages—old skis or jerseys, ski hats. The club has a whole bunch of old racing skis and racing bibs and things like that, so we had all of that on display," Maloney said. "We had the 2010 (Olympic) podium where people were taking pictures."
Maloney said the proceeds from the gala will go toward a number of projects WMSC currently has on the go, "looking ahead to the next 50 years," including renovating an old ski cabin above the existing club cabin into accommodation that will likely be able to house six to eight people.
"We've had a couple of issues over the years where we really would like to get a certain coach in to coach at the club, but it's so expensive living in Whistler sometimes, it's difficult," he said.
As well, Maloney said the club hopes to build a small lunch cabin on the mountain for athletes to kick up their feet for training breaks.
Also on the agenda is finding a better way to get racers back up the mountain, as they regularly go into the Olympic zone, and are forced to temper their speeds significantly shortly after skiing at a race pace.
"They go into one of perhaps the most precarious and slowest zones on the mountain," Maloney said. "It's uncomfortable for both our racers, the safety people and the other people that are using that run to ski on. We recognize that and we'd like to find some way to avoid that conflict, that situation, to make it safer and better for everybody."
Maloney said the club is looking at a service lift to stay in a more contained area or finding an alternative route.
Tilston wrapped by recognizing contributions from parents as they all work toward the same goals as athletes and coaches, as well as thanking the community for its support.
"We look forward to the next 50 years," he said.