The Return of the Legendary Saudan Couloir Ski Race Extreme presented by Kokanee

There’s a reason why a fighter pilot in a full helmet features on the original event posters – this race is designed to take your breath away. It’s 2280 feet (695 metres) of thigh-burning hell, at times, at a 42 degree angle, from the top of the Saudan Couloir to the bottom of Jersey Cream – if you’ve been in Whistler long enough you’d call that ‘Chair 6.’  After a 15-year hiatus we’re bringing back a race that carved itself into the minds of racers across the world. What will over a decade of ski and snowboard progression make of the legendary Saudan Couloir Ski Race Extreme presented by Kokanee? There’s only one way to find out.

Blast From the Past

The race started in the 80’s when Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains were separate entities, competitors, and “dueling mountains”. Blackcomb was looking for an event with the “wow” factor, and they found it. The brainchild of David Perry and David Clemence it was to be the season-ending event that pushed the spirit of winter into spring. As soon as he heard of the concept, Steve Legge, who was the head of Blackcomb’s Race Department at that time, knew it was going to be something big. He was the man in charge of setting the course and his main concern was how he’d get 120 eager racers down terrain that was steep and unforgiving, keeping it exhilarating, but not giving himself a heart attack. He refused to let racers “freestyle” the top section and instead created a luge-like course that would take them down the steepest section and around the rocks. A week before the race a team of around 20 people would slipslide the course each day to help groom the steeper sections – it was a team effort that brought together patrollers, instructors and groomers who were passionate to be part of making the event a success.

On race registration day they had a line of at least 100 outside the administration building at six in the morning; given that registration was done by hand the wait was long. This just showcased the stoke people had for a race that would push them to the limits. Both the pros and amateurs racers approached the event with respect – it was a course that could make or break them, literally. As much as Legge could try and control events, there was just no holding some people back, as pro skier Chris Winter demonstrated. Winter started his run one year with a backflip off the cornice.

So what will people bring to the competition this year? We can only wait and see. If we haven’t completely put you off then here’s how you can get yourself in on the action…

Get Your Race On

Registration opens on March 1, and anyone who thinks they will make it down in one piece can grab a bib. This race has lovingly been described as an event that will “tighten your sphincter” so it’s not for the faint of heart, or the weak-thighed.

There’s $20,000 in cash and prizing up for grabs and race day will be either Friday April 13 or Saturday April 13 as the event organizers look for the best conditions possible. It’s a one shot, one day race that will result in some spectacular shows – whether that’s the podium or yard-sale kind. There are pro male and female classes, and then the ameature classes are divided by age. Racers will go in one minute intervals, passing is allowed, but missing a gate is not. More race details can be found on the event page.

It’s worth grabbing yourself a ticket to Saturday night’s party to end at parties, aptly named The END as the athletes will want to celebrate in style and this is definitely the venue for that!

Legge’s Race Tips

  • Manage the couloir – don’t get too excited right out the gate, just get yourself to Marine, then you race.
  • Conserve energy – Blowdown is steeper than you think, get your head up and be ready to make some good turns.
  • Get yourself a copy of the race poster – they’re collectables.

Saudan Couloir Stats

  • Steepest angle: 42 degrees
  • Total run distance: 2,280 feet (695 metres)
  • Last race: 2001
  • Original poster artist: Brent Lynch
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