Dec 1, 2001 | Marmot, Winter 2001

2010 Olymics at Mt.Washington

Hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler would generate $2.8 billion in economic activity for B.C., according to Premier Gordon Campbell. And Mt. Washington wants a piece of the action.

“I think there’s some excitement to generate over this whole Whistler buzz,” says Mt. Washington General Manager Peter Gibson. “It’s time for the rest of the province to figure out ways to capitalize.”
The province estimates the Games would generate $700 million in tax revenues for provincial, federal and municipal governments, Campbell said. The Games would potentially create 67,000 jobs and would generate billions of dollars in global publicity. There were 3.7 billion people who watched the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia on television. And when Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Games, organizers discovered 53% of the spectators were from abroad.

With the opening of the new Raven Lodge nordic skiing facility in mid-December, Mt. Washington has gone world class, Gibson said. He predicted the Island mountain would be an ideal training facility for cross-country ski and biathlon teams. “The terrain here is first class,” he said; and what with recent improvements to the Comox Municipal Airport, Mt. Washington would be the closest and most viable snow venue to the proposed Olympic facilities.

Mt. Washington’s views are being heard in some very important places. Glenn Rupertus of Courtenay is on the bid committee for the sport of biathlon, and sits on the Whistler bid’s athlete advisory board. He is also a coach with the Strathcona Nordics cross-country and biathlon programs, which are run at Mt. Washington. “With their new facilities, (Mt. Washington) would most definitely be the premiere nordic facility in North America, from the facilities I’ve seen,” Rupertus says.

Rupertus knows what he’s talking about: “I have three Olympics under my belt as an athlete (Calgary in ‘88, Albertville in ‘92 and Lillehammer in ‘94) and I helped coach at a number of world championships. I spent 17 years on the national team,” he said.

This summer Rupertus has been busy overseeing a move for the Mt. Washington biathlon range, a result of construction around Raven Lodge’s new parking lots. The biathlon range has been re-located about a kilometre further down the road from the previous range. It is located in a forested area that affords better security, and it will allow for trail expansion so competitors will have new one-kilometre, 2.5 km and 5 km loops for races.

Rupertus is ecstatic about the change – at half the size of an Olympic range, it’s possible the Nordics will be able to use the new site to host international competitors in the near future. Maybe even in time for pre-Olympic event training. “It’s meeting the needs of the club right now. I feel in the next three years it will be ready for pre-Olympic competition and training for other international teams,” he said.

Aside from physical work on the range, the Nordics will have to increase both exposure and funding if they want to get the biathlon facility up to international standards. “Our hopes as a club are to get the range working at full capacity so we could host Western Canadian championships or even national championships. “Once you can host national championships, you can pretty much host a World Cup.”

Both the Canadian national and junior national cross-country ski teams have already discovered the benefits of practicing at Mt. Washington. They first came to the mountain for spring training in 1998, and returned last May.

Rick Morson, vice-president of marketing for the Strathcona Nordics (and marketing director for Cross-Country Canada), says the teams come to Mt. Washington because of the large snow pack the alpine resort enjoys in the spring. “We have really excellent conditions in May. In fact last year Alain Parent (national junior team coach) said it was the best skiing he’d had all winter in terms of conditions,” Morson said.

The snow is also the same as that found at Callaghan Valley, where the Whistler bid committee would like to establish facilities for cross-country skiing, ski jumping and biathlon facilities, and a bobsled-luge track. “Until all teams have access to the site, the Canadian team won’t have access to (Callaghan Valley),” Morrison said. “So other teams may practice here.”
The construction of Raven Lodge only adds to Mt. Washington’s attraction, he said. The mountain already hosted an internationally sanctioned race here in March 1998 with the Continental Cup Nor-Am race, which is one step below a World Cup event.

“We have the ability to hold international races here.”

Mt. Washington is banking on that.

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