Subaru IRONMAN Canada has been hosted in Whistler since 2012, and sees as many as 3,000 triathletes take on the grueling challenge. The 2019 race kicks off on Sunday July 28 and covers a 2.4 mile swim in Alta Lake, a 112 mile cycle to the Whistler Olympic Park and back (twice), and a 26.2 mile run on Whistler’s Valley Trail.
Just thinking about it may give you a cramp. But don’t let it give you a headache too – here’s what to expect traffic-wise on race day:
I’m traveling to Whistler, how will I be affected?
“Significant traffic pattern changes will be in effect on the day of the race to ensure the safety of athletes, volunteers, participants and travellers”, explains Tourism Whistler.
The official IRONMAN Traffic Impact guide advises: “Vehicles travelling on Highway 99 to Whistler should pass or arrive at Village Gate Boulevard by 11:45 a.m. There will be no northbound access to Whistler Village on Highway 99 beyond Garibaldi Road after 11:45 a.m.
From 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., left turns off of Highway 99 will not be permitted between Garibaldi Road and Alpine Way. All northbound traffic will resume normal operations at 5 p.m.”
Southbound travel through Whistler will be possible thanks to diversions in place on Nancy Green Drive and Blackcomb Way. This is expected to be single lane, alternating traffic and so motorists are advised to expect delays.
If you are traveling from Vancouver and checking in to your Whistler accommodation, we advise planning an arrival after 5:00 pm – when roads are scheduled to fully re-open. But that doesn’t mean waiting in Vancouver all day. For inspiration, check out these 5 Places You Have To See Between Vancouver and Whistler.
I’m traveling from Whistler, how will I be affected?
Traveling northbound to Pemberton, Lillooet, and beyond will be made possible thanks to the aforementioned diversions in place on Nancy Green Drive and Blackcomb Way.
Traffic heading from Whistler to Vancouver on race day is most affected in our opinion. Subaru IRONMAN Canada advises southbound motorists to depart before 6:30 am and to have passed Garibaldi Road by 7:30 am.
The Traffic Impact Guide advises: “No southbound traffic on Highway 99 between Nancy Greene Drive and Garibaldi Road between 6:30 a.m. and 1.15 p.m.
No access to Highway 99 from the west side of Highway 99 between Alpine Way and Garibaldi Road from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. when normal operations resume.”
Things To Do While You Wait For The Roads To Reopen
First and foremost, we recommend avoiding any travel by car. While it may be possible on some routes, options are limited and delays are to be expected. A great alternative may be the Whistler Transit System, which will be operating all day on open roads with modifications (see bctransit.com/whistler for scheduled changes).
Be A Spectator
Subaru IRONMAN Canada is a great spectator sport and we love to cheer on the athletes. Succumb to the incredible atmosphere by planning to visit some spectator hot spots. Our favourites are:
The event is scheduled to commence at 5:50 am with the Pro Women heading into the water at Alta Lake. Rainbow Park is easily accessible via the Valley Trail with spectator areas offering views of the beach, lake, and transition areas. We find this to be one of the most impressive transition areas simply because we get to see as many as 3,000 road bikes arranged and ready to go.
Junction of Lorimer Road and Route 99
This is a great spot to pass through on your way from Rainbow Park back to Whistler Village. Find a spot at the roadside and cheer the athletes as they depart Whistler southbound on their first loop to the Callaghan Valley.
Later in the day – we’d say between 5:00 – 7:00 pm – head for the finish line, which is on Blackcomb Way and adjacent to Whistler Olympic Plaza. Here you can look on in awe as athletes complete their 12+ hour ordeal and claim their medals. This is the culmination of years of training as well as the trials of race-day itself. The air is electric and filled with awe – we find it truly inspiring!
What Else Is There To Do?
If you’re looking for things to do besides being an IRONMAN spectator, you may well be pleasantly surprised at the many free things to do in Whistler. Geared at both children and adults, there’s plenty to keep you occupied indoors and out. Check out our favourite ways to explore Whistler without splashing the cash.
If you’d prefer to enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle of race day, you might consider visiting the spa, going for a bike ride, or taking a kayak out onto the lake.
There are also a number of great hikes that we can recommend. Some which are accessible directly from Whistler include Big Burn, High Note, and Skywalk. Other hikes, which may be only accessible by car, can also be enjoyed however be sure to leave Whistler by 6:30 am to avoid any traffic delays. Check out our Local’s Guide To The Best Hikes In Whistler.
Looking ahead to IRONMAN 2020
Subaru IRONMAN Canada confirmed on July 16 the months-long speculation that it was set to move back to Penticton, where it hosted the event from 1983 until 2012.
“While it won’t be returning in 2020, because we had such a great working relationship with IRONMAN, we are going to continue to look for [all] of us—IRONMAN and RMOW and Tourism Whistler—to find future partnership opportunities,” RMOW chief administrative officer Mike Furey said in an interview with Pique Newsmagazine.
“We haven’t identified any of those at this time, but we are certainly going to keep the dialogue open and make sure that we maintain the goodwill and good working relationship that we have.”
For more information about Subaru IRONMAN Canada and how it may affect your time in Whistler, please visit the Tourism Whistler page, found here.