Karl Hilzinger: up for every challenge (Part one)

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Watching the Paralympics last month, I was stunned and inspired by the performances of athletes from around the world. I’m going to tell you the story of an athlete who was among Mont-Tremblant’s elite for many years.

Karl Hilzinger was born in Montreal in 1932 and his passion for football led him to take up the sport. Considered to be one of Montreal’s best athletes, he was a member of junior football’s Notre Dame Maple Leafs. In 1952, he tried his luck at the Montreal Alouettes’ training camp but was not selected. He tried out again in 1953 and played for two seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. In 1955, he came east to play

© Courtoisie

with the Ottawa Rough Riders. He wound up his football career in 1959.

Karl was an energetic man who didn’t limit himself to a single sport. Between seasons, he skied Mont Tremblant and, in the summer, he played golf. I met him in the winter of ’55-’56. At the time he was a teacher with the ski school directed by the flamboyant and highly regarded Ernie McCulloch.

Karl had a fine physique and was much requested as a model, particularly by bathing suit companies.

Nothing stopped him; he liked to respond to all kinds of challenges. During a trip to Acapulco, he saw the famous cliff divers who, from 35 metres, demonstrated their diving talent and their courage.

That’s all it took for Karl: the challenge and public attention were enough to get him to try this dangerous sport. He asked the local officials about it and took the training required. The result? Karl became a cliff diver.

Overall, you could say that Karl Hilzinger had everything going for him. He was handsome, he was strong, and he was a well-known athlete. His engaging personality made him as popular with men as he was with women. Life was good.

It was in 1964 that Karl Hilzinger’s life flipped. I was with a group of friends one night at the Villa Bellevue; conversation was lively and there was a lot of laughter. At the end of the evening, when it was time to head home, the group started to disperse. Karl and one of his friends were the first to leave.

Karl had a new car, a red convertible. The friend took the wheel. I can imagine Karl saying to his buddy: “Hey, here are the keys. You’ll see how well it goes.” Fifteen minutes later, a stranger arrived at the Villa Bellevue as I was getting ready to leave. He said there’d been an accident on the road and a car had hit a high-tension electric pole. He added that the car was still right-side up, that it was located between the road and the lake and that the police were on their way.

We figured that it was probably a minor accident, but when he mentioned that the car was a red convertible, we hurried off to the site. Maybe Karlo needed us.

To be continued…


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Peter Duncan


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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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