Decades of speed

For over two decades, speed demons from around the globe have converged on Sun Peaks Resort each March to attend the annual Subaru Velocity Challenge in a pilgrimage to what is truly the hallowed ground of the sport of speed skiing in North America.

In its 22nd year, the Subaru Velocity Challenge is the only speed skiing event in North America and the only FIS Speed Ski World Cup event held outside of a few select European countries. March 3 to 6, 2011 will see 40 speed racers from up to 10 countries compete on the Headwall Speed Ski Track reaching speeds of up to 175 km/h in a mere eight seconds. Speed skiing at Sun Peaks started back in the ‘80s when a band of local racers fresh off the amateur and pro speed skiing circuits decided they should have a race at their home hill. With shovels and racks in hand, these pioneers revelled in their glory as they sculpted Volkswagen-sized moguls off the Headwalls until some semblance of a speed skiing track emerged.

One man that’s seen it all is Sun Peaks’ own Don Gagnon, who’s raced at every Velocity Challenge ever held.

“It’s a lot easier to build a speed track with winches on snow cats,” said Gagnon with a chuckle. “But it was a lot of fun in the old days—out there sweating with your buddies, eating bagged lunches, drinking beer, trying to build a speed track with a shovel in your hand. It’s a lot more serious now that it’s an FIS World Cup, but I still try to keep it light and have fun with it. It’s a way bigger deal than before with all the best racers in the world coming over to race our track”.

The longevity of the Subaru Velocity Challenge is another thing that makes this event unique and it speaks volumes for all the volunteers and community support that have been involved in making the event a huge success year after year.

“We have the best volunteers out there,” said Kenny Dale, a speed skier of 25 years and Velocity Challenge record holder. “It’s always been a great community-based event and that’s what really makes it happen. All the volunteers are long time locals and have been involved with the race for years. Everyone involved works hard and plays harder and that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s truly the highlight of my year.”

The Subaru Velocity Challenge is looking for a few strong skiers to volunteer March 3 to 6. If interested, call 250-319-1269. Visit

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