Whistler has a mayor and all the ski stars it can handle, but gravity is its true king. Whether skiing, tubing, or mountain biking, outdoor recreationists here are willing slaves to the laws of physics. Nowhere is this better embodied than with the sports of bobsleigh and skeleton, which you can catch at an upcoming event in Whistler.
From February 2-4, 2012, the world's top sliding athletes compete in the FIBT Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup at the Whistler Sliding Centre, built on the southeast slope of Blackcomb Mountain for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. With a 152-metre drop, 16 corners and centrifugal forces approaching five Gs at maximum speed under heavy braking, the 1,450-metre track remains the world's fastest - guaranteed to produce world records. During the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the Sliding Centre hosted 150 bobsleigh, 43 skeleton and 110 luge athletes.
Bobsleigh combines speed and power. Men and women both race two-person teams consisting of pilot and brakeman, while men also have a four-person event that includes two crewmen. It was the Swiss who first attached a steering mechanism to the toboggan and gave birth to the sport of bobsleigh. In 1897 the world's first bobsleigh club was founded in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and by 1914 over 100 natural-ice courses could be found throughout Europe. Bobsleigh was featured in the original Olympic Winter Games in 1924 and Canada's first run was built in 1911 at Montebello, Quebec.
Skeleton also features separate racing disciplines for men and women. The first runs were late 19th Century natural tracks in Switzerland. Straight courses were made more interesting and challenging by adding curves. The first official toboggan race was in 1884 and the first known skeleton event in 1887. Skeleton racing laid the foundation for bobsleigh, and the two sports were brought together in 1923 under the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT). Skeleton appeared on Olympic programs in 1928 and 1948, both times in St. Moritz. Canadian participation began in 1986 with the opening of Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.
The Whistler Sliding Centre is minutes from Whistler Village and holds 12,000 spectators. Competitions start at 3 p.m. on February 2 and 3, and at 4 p.m. on February 4. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at whistler.com or the Whistler Visitor Centre. How better to watch gravity have its way?