June 20, 1982: Whistler’s First MTB Race

Aug 29, 2016
by Brad Nichols / Whistler Museum  
This summer we here at the Whistler Museum have been working on digitizing the Whistler Question's photo collection [1978-1985]. The Whistler Question was Whistler's first official newspaper. In the midst of going through the collection, we came across Whistler’s first ever off-road bike race. The race took place on June 20, 1982.

Whistlers Canada s First MTB Race. June 20 1982

On that Sunday morning, “seventeen keen competitors” lined up at the start line on the slopes of the Village Chair, according to an article published in the June 24, 1982, issue of the Whistler Question. One competitor, Mark Rowan, recalled the race began “Le Mans” style, which meant competitors started from a standing position. “Racers ran down the lower part of the Village Chair before picking up their bicycles in Mountain Square,” Rowan said, noting that this was roughly near where the Longhorn Saloon is today. “The racers then headed out to Lost Lake and to the power line road, which runs along the east side of Green Lake. From the Wedge Creek turnoff, they headed back via Mons and the Lost Lake trail again.”

Whistlers Canada s First MTB Race. June 20 1982

Kona mountain bike company founder, Jacob Heilbron said the Whistler Race may have been called the Canadian Championships, but there was no governing body for mountain bike racing at the time. “As far as I know, it was the first mountain bike race held in Canada,” he noted. It wouldn’t be until 1984 and the formation of CORBA (Canadian Off-Road Bicycle Association) that the first official Canadian Championships would take place on Vedder Mountain.

Whistlers Canada s First MTB Race. June 20 1982

“There were no rules, so I switched to a road bike and picked up around three places on the section of highway heading back to town. Then I switched back to a mountain bike as we crossed back into local trails and tried to find the lightly marked trail on the way back to the finish,” Heilbron said. The first prize was $1,000 as recalled by both Deep Cove Bike Shop owner, Chaz Romalis, and Heilbron. The organizer of the race was Jon Kirk. Romalis mentioned, “he was responsible for the Deep Cove Daze, which brought thousands of spectators to watch a crit race in the early ’80s.”

Whistlers Canada s First MTB Race. June 20 1982

“There was definitely some confusion about who had completed the entire race and what place they had finished,” Heilbron added. Romalis was in second place, but while descending the hill from the Microwave Tower he crashed out of the race. Rowan, unfortunately, didn’t finish the race either.

Whistlers Canada s First MTB Race. June 20 1982

“I rode a cyclocross bike and my front tire caved in and I injured my face." The original Question article mentions the winner of the race, “Tony Starck, 22, from Victoria had purchased his bike only three weeks prior.” Starck was the first Canadian Champion of off-road bicycle racing. Second was Russ Maynard and third place went to Heilbron.

Whistlers Canada s First MTB Race. June 20 1982

Whistlers Canada s First MTB Race. June 20 1982

Written by John Alexander/Whistler Museum.


MENTIONS: @bradn104


  • 17 0
 Awesome! '82, when you could just grow your own helmet and catch some sweet air. Seriously though, much respect for those that unpaved the way. Thank you.
  • 13 1
 8/9 of pinkbikers weren't even alive then.
  • 6 0
 That was 1 day before I was born
  • 9 1
 $1000 is a fair stack for a race nowadays let alone 82. Top of the line bike in 82 was $800. Today 8g
  • 5 2
 rad booze and pasta corporate sponsors back in the day too...................


hell yeah.
  • 2 1
 @stacykohut: thanks for the share, that was awesome. i rode there for the first time in about 92. it was already "big".
  • 2 1
 @stacykohut: seems appropriate
  • 5 1
 Lot of Deep Cove people there. Whistler was an outpost of ours for good times back then. I'd still kill for a Cook Bros. cruiser. It's been on my wishlist for 34 years.
  • 1 0
 ken ach gots one i believe............ cranks too if i'm not mistaken. saw it a couple years back. pretty bitchin.
  • 4 0
 Very cool piece of Whistler history right there!
  • 1 0
 I would have been 6 in 1982. A perfect candidate for Whistler's first grom race.
It's funny, my son's 24" dh bike is ten times the bike we used to have. I wonder if my late 70's Huffy would have survived?
  • 2 0
 The winner of the race was Tony Starck... interesting ...
  • 2 1
 Gotta know where where we came from to know where we are going. Great article PB
  • 1 0
 Todays racers spin to prepare for races but these folks were choking back a fatty pre race for sure.
  • 2 0
 thats cool
  • 2 0
 so good.
  • 1 0
 Great article! I was 6 month old at the time! Time flies by

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