An electric snowmobile developed in the Faculty of Engineering played a key part in the Whistler, B.C., leg of the Olympic Torch relay. The snowmobile carried injured local Olympian Julia Murray, and the Torch, to their relay rendezvous with Canadian skiing legend Steve Podborski.
The snowmobile and some of its developers made their way to Whistler thanks in part to financial support from the Faculty of Engineering, and from the McGill Alumni Association’s Student Sponsorship Program.
Simon Ouellette, BEng’04, MEng’09, was involved in the snowmobile’s development and in organizing the big moment at Whistler. Here is his description of the event:
“Originally the plan was for Steve Podborski to carry the torch on the snowmobile. He was to get brought up to meet Julia Murray. And she was supposed to ski down with the torch to hand it over to the person lighting the Whistler cauldron. However due to her surgery on Tuesday, skiing down was not an option for her. So what was a “special thing” of having an electric snowmobile in the relay instantaneously became more of a “needed thing” in order to keep Julia Murray in the relay as it was decided by organizers that she would ride the snowmobile and Steve Podborski would ski down.
Personally I was nervous about the relay. I kept thinking “what if for some reason the snowmobile has a technical problem?” We did 3 trial runs on the previous day and everything went well. So that calmed me down a bit. However on the day of, it was just crazy to see how many people were there waiting for the flame. There were 10 000 people waiting for the flame!!! I walked through part of the crowd and it was amazing to feel their excitement and hear their genuine enthusiasm. So I started to get nervous again… Why? Because I knew that the unveiling of the flame to this eager crowd was going to be done by local Olympian Julia Murray (daughter of Canadian Ski Legend Dave Murray) and that this relay relied 100% on our electric snowmobile to work flawlessly.
When the flame was given to Julia Murray on the electric snowmobile I seriously think there were more camera flashes around the snowmobile than at the Oscars red carpet. After about a minute of non stop flashes, the snowmobile started to drive off. As it started up the hill the flame started to become visible to the crowd of 10 000 who had been waiting for it for hours down in the village. You could hear the roar become louder and louder from the crowd as more people could see it as it was climbing higher and higher on the mountain. Oh! the weight off my shoulders when the snowmobile meet up with Steve Podborski at the top of the descent.”