From Mont-Tremblant to Collingwood (Part one)

Kerttu (Alias Geri) Salmi & Jake Robbins. ©Courtoisie

They say it’s a small world, and it’s certainly true of the ski world. The story that follows is an apt illustration of the observation. Some unlikely encounters leave an indelible memory in our minds.

Jake Robbins was born in Toronto on March 6, 1926. He and his buddies discovered skiing in the same way as did most of the local youngsters. He first tried the hills of the Rosedale Golf Club, Sherwood Park and the Summit Golf Club.

Thanks to the train, he enlarged his horizons and found the Niagara Escarpment in Collingwood. Already, in the ‘40s, skiing meant adopting a lifestyle; you worked during the week and skied on the weekends. Jake and his friends travelled hundreds of kilometres on country roads to practice their favourite sport.

As a young engineer with a degree from the University of Toronto, Jake met his future wife in 1947, at a dance. They had their first date the next day at Blue Mountain, near Collingwood.

The name of the young woman, whose family was Finnish in origin, was Kerttu (alias Geri) Salmi. She had taught skiing for the Toronto Ski Club at the Summit Golf Club since 1946. Skiing and loving the outdoors are in her genes.

Geri accepted the position of ski instructor at Chantecler ski resort in Sainte-Adele under the direction of Guy Normandin. To be closer to his sweetheart, Jake started going to the Laurentian ski areas, including, of course, Mont Tremblant, with his good friends Bill Whelan and Red McConville.

Jake would take the first chair on the South Side and then the Alpine T-bar to the summit, to head back down the North Side and join us, my father and me, for breakfast at the Devil’s River Lodge.

I was really very young and memories can be a bit nebulous about some events, but I remember well in what high esteem my parents held Jake. He was one of the rare acquaintances, along with Moe Martin and his girlfriend Joanne Wilson, whom my parents trusted to take me up on the mountain.

Jake went with me on the North Side single chair and then with the help of the rope tow, up to the summit. I was between four and seven at the time and could never have done it alone. After a few runs down the Lowell Thomas and the upper part of the Devil’s River, Jake let me descend alone to the hotel.

Geri was taking her Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance (CSIA) level 3 course at Mont-Tremblant. She was the best of all the participants, men and women.

To be continued…


More from this author by clicking on his photo below.

Peter Duncan


Peter Duncan83 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.


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