WHISTLER, British Columbia — Three and a half years after hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler will welcome thousands of athletes and spectators for IRONMAN Canada, a long-distance triathlon that had been running in Penticton in the Okanagan Valley for the past 30 years. Whistler won the bid to host the event until 2017, beating out Kelowna, north of Penticton in the Okanagan, and Huntsville, Ontario.
Nestled in the stunning Coast Mountains, this laid-back, outdoorsy community is just a couple of hours north of Vancouver (and its international airport) along the newly expanded Sea to Sky Highway.
The inaugural event takes place Aug. 25, when an expected 2,500 athletes will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and then run a marathon in Whistler and surrounding communities. Athletes will swim two loops around Alta Lake and then bike up into the Callaghan Valley, home to the 2010 Olympic Nordic events, before heading north to Pemberton with views of the area’s glaciated peaks. After returning to Whistler along rolling terrain, triathletes will run two loops around Lost and Green lakes on the Valley Trail, passing through Whistler Village at the halfway point. They will finish the event at Whistler Olympic Plaza.
Spectators will have plenty to do before and after the race. Whistler offers a variety of stunningly beautiful trails for hiking and biking, ranging from level, easy routes to rugged alpine scrambles. The Whistler Mountain Bike Park is ranked among the world’s best. Visitors can also go golfing and on zip-line adventures; visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to learn about the area’s First Nations groups; spend part of a day at the fabulous Scandinave Spa Whistler, which has more than a dozen outdoor hydrotherapy pools; or wander around the village.
The World Triathlon Corp. will run an expo in the days leading up to the event, with about 100 vendors, and an awards ceremony and celebration on Aug. 26. All events are free and open to the public.
Open registration has closed, but you can still sign up: Registration costs $1,250 per person. Half of this fee goes to the nonprofit IRONMAN Foundation, and $50,000 of the money raised through these registrations goes to Whistler-area nonprofits.
Not quite ready yet? IRONMAN Canada will be held in late July from 2014 to 2017.
813-868-5940, www.ironman.com; 800-944-7853, www.whistler.com
KARI BODNARCHUKKARI BODNARCHUK