Chasing a wheel of cheese down a hill won’t replace hockey as Canada’s national sport, but that didn’t stop Ximena Abresch from going home with an 11-pound wheel of cheddar.
The 20-year-old placed first in the women’s category with a time of 12.4 seconds at the Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival in Whistler last weekend. First prize was a huge wheel of Courtenay Cheddar – her motivation for entering the race.
“Eleven pounds of cheese is a lot of cheese and it is good cheese,” she said, adding that while she was on her way to the race, she didn’t think she was even going to make it. “I just kind of showed up. I was actually late. We got distracted and I didn’t think I was going to get there on time.”
While running down a hill after a wheel of cheese may not seem like a sport that would leave casualties, Abresch says the race wasn’t without its hazards.
“One of the other competitors in the first round actually broke her arm,” she said. “It is actually kind of dangerous.”
To avoid injuries, organizers provided helmets, shin pads, knee pads and other protective gear for racers.
“I think the shin pads and knee pads were optional, but I didn’t see anyone who didn’t take them except the person dressed as a giant wheel of cheese,” she said.
When Abresch found out she had won the women’s category, she says she wasn’t expecting it at all.
“At that point, I was a little bit too shocked to comprehend that I had won,” she said. “It took a few minutes and I think I was just mostly confused.”
While surveying the course on Blackcomb Mountain, Abresch says it didn’t look that hard – until she got to the top.
“I had some second thoughts when I got to the top of the hill,” she said. “It didn’t look as bad from the bottom.”
The seventh annual cheese rolling festival isn’t the only place you can find groups of people chasing cheese. In the U.K., groups of cheese-chasers gather in Gloucester every year in a tradition dating back to the mid-1800s. Abresch says she didn’t think the Whistler race was anything like the original one in England.
“The one in England is worse,” she said. “It is a steeper hill and it has potholes. They also don’t give you helmets or anything like that.”
After her win, Abresch hosted a party, where the cheese took centre stage and already, a big chunk of the wheel has been eaten.
“(The party) was pretty awesome – you can never go wrong with a big wheel of cheese,” she said “There is about a third of it gone and it is pretty good. It’s a nice mild cheddar and I don’t know what to do with all of it. That much cheese could easily last me half a year.”
Abresch says she would recommend the race to anyone who wouldn’t mind taking home an 11-pound wheel of B.C. cheddar and even she thinks she should be there next year to defend her title.
Along with the wheel of cheddar, Abresch won two season passes to ski in Whistler for placing first.
The event was hosted by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and is in its seventh year. To find out more about the cheese rolling festival, visit canadiancheeserolling.ca.