Ski clubs: a tradition for close to 100 years
The Laurentians, and more specifically the municipality of Mont-Tremblant, has had the benefit – for almost a century – of an organizational structure designed to prepare competitive alpine skiers. Even before the arrival of Joe Ryan (winter ’37-’38), the village of Saint-Jovite already had its ski club, created in 1930 and based at Gray Rocks Inn on Lac Ouimet.
A keen interest in winter sports attracted many people to the region. After the passing of the founder of Gray Rocks in 1926, his son, Frederick Haskell (Tom) Wheeler, and then his young brother Harry – both of whom were visionaries and good promoters – didn’t hesitate to become associated with the Club de ski Saint-Jovite.
With Herman Johannsen (Jackrabbit), Harry Pangman, George Jost and the Red Birds Ski Club of McGill University, they laid out the first cross-country ski trails all along Lakes Mercier, Ouimet and Gauthier, as well as an alpine ski trail on the south side of Mont Tremblant. The Club de ski Saint-Jovite’s first chief instructor was W. H. Pauly (Bill), backed by the very generous O.F. Olsen.
The club already organized competitions at that time. The first had four different events (the Four Way): downhill, cross-country, slalom and ski jumping.
The downhill started at the summit of White Peak for a distance of four km to the Diable River. The cross-country skiing competitors started from the Beauvallon Bridge to ski a circuit of about eight km which ended in front of the Gray Rocks Inn.
The slalom was held on a Gray Rocks slope and the 35-metre jump was held close to Lac Ouimet. In 1930, the first winners of the downhill and the combined were, respectively, Dickie Ball of the Montreal Ski Club and Karl Baadsvik of the Viking Ski Club.
A first recognition
The consecration of the Club de ski Saint-Jovite occurred in 1932 when it was awarded the first Québec-Kandahar Cup, sponsored by the Red Bird club.
Participating in the competition required determination. Most participants arrived at Saint-Jovite Station (by train) on Friday evening, then went to Gray Rocks Inn to spend a first night.
The next day, they crosscountry skied to Mont Tremblant to then climb the run and pack it right up to the summit. Of course, they carried their food and sleeping bags with them to spend the night in a roundlog cabin built by the Wheelers. A woodstove maintained a comfortable temperature and, according to my father, alcohol also contributed to keeping everyone warm…and I don’t have to mention that it was not a very restful night.
Sunday, race day
Jackrabbit was the only person responsible for the timing. All the racers synchronized their watches with Jack’s, and he ran the course first. Half an hour later, the first competitor hit the trail, with subsequent starts happening every five minutes. Jackrabbit awaited them at the finish line and wrote down each person’s time.
Of course, sometimes a racer would pass another during the competitions but the system, while rudimentary, worked very well. When everything was finished, it was time to get back to the station to return home. You can imagine that Monday morning at the office must have been tough.
On February 15, 1939, at half past noon, the fourth downhill competition was held on the Taschereau run. It was an important day, because it was the first time that a chairlift was used to get the competitors up the first part of the run. The rest was still done on foot. The following year, a T-bar was installed on the second section to take skiers almost to the top.
From then on, the modern era arrived at Mont Tremblant and the resort took off. Organization of competitions developed in the Laurentians, in Québec, throughout the east of the country and in the United States…. (To be continued)
By the same author: Lucile Wheeler: the Mont-Tremblant sparkplug who inspired generations of women skiers
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Peter Duncan58 Posts
Membre de l’équipe canadienne de ski alpin de 1960 à 1971, skieur professionnel de 1971 à 1979 et champion américain en 1965, Peter Duncan a participé aux Jeux olympiques de 1964 à Innsbruck ainsi qu’à ceux de 1968 à Grenoble. Intronisé au Temple de la renommée du ski au Canada, au Panthéon des sports du Québec et récipiendaire de la médaille du gouverneur général, Peter a longtemps été commentateur de ski à la télévision./ Peter Duncan is a Canadian former alpine skier who competed in the 1964 and the 1968 Winter Olympics. He was named to the Canadian National Alpine Team in 1960 at the age of 16 and competed at the national level for the next 10-years until 1970 before retiring.