A man with a true passion for skiing

Conrad Guay on March 25, 2017. © Gary Yee

Conrad Guay passed away on October 7 at the age of 82. He was best known for his coaching career and the careers of his three sons, and his love of skiing dates back to his earliest youth. Born on the South Shore of Montreal, he first hit the slopes at the Rougement ski area. From then on he built strong friendships, notably with René Beauchamp and Bernard Trottier.

The family settled in Montreal close to the Morgan hill, where the Olympic Stadium stands now, which meant that he could ski just a few blocks from home. Conrad joined Montreal’s Club de Ski Satellite and, along with others who enjoyed the sport, travelled to the small ski resort in Prévost. Others in his neighbourhood also loved skiing and he met Michel Dubreuil, André Burns and Pierre Petit, all of whom became his lifelong friends.

Conrad studied at Saint-Laurent College, preparing for real life. But he loved sports without compromise: you’re either a sportsman or you’re not. He played hockey with his buddies Noël Lirette and Pierre Petit, tennis with Claude Dumontier and of course…he skied!

At the same time, he became a firefighter. The job requirements confirmed that being in shape was crucial, and he spent many hours at the gym lifting weights. It was simply part of the job.

His schedule, with seven days at the firehall and seven days off, allowed him to become a Tremblant patroller under Sonny Draper in the winter of ’61-’62. After that he became a ski instructor at Villa-Bellevue and at Manoir Pinoteau, still one week out of two. Come spring, from 1962 to 1970, he and his friends travelled to Mount Washington to tackle a steep and dangerous couloir called Tuckerman Ravine.

The call of the mountain

At the end of the ‘60s, the mountain called him. He left his work as a firefighter – saying goodbye to his pension and benefits – and went to settle in what he called the most beautiful place in the world, Mont-Tremblant.

At the Chamonix Mont-Blanc bar of Mont Fugère, close to Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, he spent hours with Robert Fugère. They discussed technique: for teaching skiing to the growing number of people taking up the sport, or for coaching elite skiers. It’s important to know that Conrad was interested in competitive skiing long before the birth of his three sons who became champions.

In the winter of ’69 -’70, Conrad became a technician for Lange and for Dynamic skis. He accompanied the Canadian National Alpine Ski Team on the World Cup circuit. In summer and fall, he was at the training camps on the glaciers of North America, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I was one of the skiers who used the equipment he had. Conrad ensured that the Lange boots were adjusted to the racers’ feet, that the ski edges were sharp and that the waxes used were right for the competition conditions.

In 1974, he came back to Mont-Tremblant where he became the ski school director until 1989. Michel Beaulieu, one of his young ski instructors, who later became the ski school director himself, says of Conrad: “He was highly disciplined and never counted his hours. What I appreciated about him as a boss was that he was fair and always straightforward.”

During that same period, Conrad sat on the technical committee of the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance, where he was respected by his colleagues.

An important encounter

The most important event in Conrad Guay’s life, according to his closest friends, was his meeting with Ellen Mathieson. The daughter of a Norwegian mother and a Danish father, Ellen met Conrad during a course offered at Stoneham by the Ski Instructors Alliance. More than a spouse, she was his true partner in life and together, they formed a solid team. Ellen gave birth to three sons: Kristian (1979), Erik (1981) and Stefan (1986).

Faced with the undeniable talent of his children, Conrad made a point of perfecting his coaching skills. He participated, at his own expense and as an observer, in Québec team training sessions at Sölden, Austria, and at Val Senales, Italy, in the fall of 1992.

He was the coach for the Mont-Tremblant Ski Club in the Laurentian Division of the Québec team, and in the end, for the Québec team itself (men and women). Among those whose careers he guided were slalom skier Julien Cousineau, Thomas Rinfret, Ryan Semple and J.P. Roy. He became coach, at the national level, of the women’s team. The legendary Nancy Green, who appreciated his talents as a tennis opponent, said of him, “He was a great coach!”

Skiing in their DNA

It should be noted that Conrad and Ellen’s three sons all succeeded as elite skiers on the international scene. Holder of a crystal globe in super-G in 2010 and of two World Championship titles – the first in downhill in 2011 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the second in super-G in 2017 at Saint Moritz – Erik is Canada’s most decorated alpine skier in history.

There can be no question that Conrad contributed mightily to the upsurge in new Canadian talent. In 2008, he was inducted into the Laurentians Ski Hall of Fame and in 2014, he received the certificate of recognition for 50 years of membership in the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance.

His friends agree that he truly lived his passion, first as a skier, then as a ski patroller, coach, father of champion skiers and grandfather of future champions.

Farewell, Conrad.

This text was written using material from Claude Dumontier’s archives and with the participation of Martin Jean, Michel Beaulieu, Robert Fugère and Ellen Guay.

 

More from this author by clicking on his photo below.

Peter Duncan

 

Peter Duncan68 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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