From Mont-Tremblant to Collingwood (Part two)

Collingwood Robbins’ house, built to look like the small original chalets in the Mont-Tremblant ski resort. ©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.

Salmi and Jake Robbins were married in 1951. Their love of skiing took them to Sun Valley, Idaho, for their honeymoon. Jake worked for Miller Paving and, aware that paving employees only had work in the summer, he created J.A. Robbins Construction, a snow removal and road maintenance company.

Jake developed the Don Valley Ski Centre on the flanks of the Don Valley River to help Torontonians become familiar with the sport of skiing and at the start of the ‘60s, installed a snowmaking system there.

Geri and Jake raised a family of four children. Derek, the oldest, born in 1952, was on the Canadian team at the Sapporo Olympic Games in 1972. Mike, born in 1953, is still competing as a senior and has just returned from a giant slalom training camp at Copper Mountain, Colorado. Marilyn, born in 1955, won the Ryan Cup in 1970 at Mont-Tremblant. Lynda, born in 1962, would become a member of the Canadian national team. She married Ken Read, legendary member of the Crazy Canucks, and their sons, both university students, were also on the Canadian team.

Jake participated in the founding of the Osler Bluff Ski Club on the Niagara Escarpment in Collingwood, Ontario. He was one of the thirty founding members and worked as a volunteer to cut the first ski runs.

Jake and Geri retained a happy memory of their time in the Laurentians. In winter ‘58-’59, in Collingwood to take the Junior Canadian Championships, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Robbins’ house, built to look like the small original chalets in the Mont-Tremblant ski resort; I felt right at home.

Jake Robbins was one of the pillars who contributed to my love of skiing. He created a pan-Canadian network based on the lifestyle of skiers. Thanks to him, Canadian skiing learned to acknowledge this art of living.

When I met him, he was a young man who, on a magnificent mountain, accompanied a young child who was extremely interested in skiing. Later, at Osler Bluff, he had become a prosperous contractor who welcomed me in a place where he had recreated the magic of Mont-Tremblant. When I was an adult, as Jake grew older, our meetings were imbued with this longstanding connection.

In October of this past year, their family and friends gathered at Osler Bluff to celebrate the lives of Jake and Geri, both of whom had passed away during the pandemic. They will remain two beings who marked those who knew them through their passion for work and their achievements, and also through their unconditional love of skiing and all those who skied.


More from this author by clicking on his photo below.

Peter Duncan


Peter Duncan80 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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