1970:JUMP-OFF YEAR FOR THE SKIING MILLION
THERE’S A MYTH in skiing circles that says: “If you can get them by 10, you’ve hooked them for life.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t true for me. I skied for eight years, from age 10 to 18. In that period I twisted both knees and both ankles, never changed my skis, only bought bigger boots when I absolutely had to. I got lots of dates, but I never did learn to ski, and never quite recovered from the paralyzing terror of just going down a hill with eyes shut, nose dripping.
My kind of skier — inept, but no ski bunny — barely exists any more, thank heaven. In the early 1950s, when I skied, there weren’t many people on the slopes. Most of them were Europeans with a relaxed tolerance toward nitwitted skiers like myself. It’s all changed. Today we’re right in the middle of a huge ski boom. There are almost a million Canadian skiers, and they increase their numbers by about 17 percent annually. That’s a bonanza by anybody’s standards. And that figure does not take into account the American tourists who flock north to enjoy our super-skiing conditions. Nor does it include the, as yet, uncounted thousands whose lifestyles and incomes are affected by the ski industry: the lift operators, the club, hotel, motel and lodge
operators, their entertainers and employees; the ski shops, the clothing stores, the governments that make huge sums of money on liquor consumed, and the customs and excise taxes on imported ski goods; or the Canadian subsidiaries of ski-equipment manufacturers.
Keith Nesbitt, general manager of the CASA (Canadian Amateur Ski Association) estimates that skiers alone buy 15 million gallons of gas each winter, and spend incalculable sums on groceries, booze, furnishings, equipment and skis. “A place like Sutton, Quebec,” he for-instances, “would be a depressed town if it weren’t for the ski area near there. Skiing contributes to every aspect of its commercial life during the winter months. In fact, the Laurentians would be dead without ski dollars.”
Skiing as a national obsession is somewhat ahead of golf and bowling, which was once Canada’s biggest participatory sport. And it has shot ahead of curling, the only real rival skiing has in winter sports.
Skiing didn’t become a national sport overnight. After the war it limped along in the minor leagues. In 1956 Lucile Wheeler won Canada’s first Olympic medal for skiing and in the following year sales of ski equipment went up 20 percent. The
sport stayed on the beginners’ slopes in the 1950s, but headed for faster runs when Anne Heggveigt won her Olympic gold medal in 1960. That event paved the way for the hysterical adulation of Nancy Greene and her second World Cup in 1968. The CASA estimates that the number of Nancy Greene Ski League members (a junior racing program started last year to train children from eight to 13 for competition) will double this year from 3,000 to 6,000 because of her influence.
Government agencies, with a few exceptions, have more or less ignored skiing until this season. Quebec’s Bureau of Tourism has been longest in the business of keeping tabs on skiing. They’ve found that the ski season in the Laurentians alone has accounted for 60 percent of its tourist income — reversing the traditional summer figures.
In 1966 the Ontario government conducted the only survey extant on skiing. Business has been so good that they’ve updated their figures this year. Their research shows that 50 percent of the people who ski are university-educated; the average income of an unmarried skier is $5,155, a married skier, $10,936; two thirds of the skiers are male; the average age is 27; 26.4 percent are involved in professions; 26.4 percent are students and 6.4 percent are in managerial positions. Seventy-five percent of those skiing today have taken it up within the past 10 years; and Ontario has approximately 100,000 skiers spending $22 million annually. Extrapolate that amount into a national sum and you have $198 million in equipment and ski fees alone.
This year the federal government’s Travel Bureau is up to its neck in the skiing business. It produced a brochure, "Ski Canada,” by its ski expert, Tony Sloan, and distributed 200,000 copies in the U.S.
Skiers everywhere seem to take up the sport for similar reasons. As Nancy Greene puts it: "When there’s not a track in sight and the sun is shining on powder snow, it’s incredible — you can put things in their proper perspective.” It’s something you can do successfully in the cruel Canadian winter, and you get to meet a lot of interesting people, they say. What skiers don’t say is that the cult is spreading so fast among the middle class, it’s becoming not just another method of making social contacts, but important for business contacts, too. Basically, though, it’s a means of escaping the city and seeing some of the most staggeringly beautiful landscape in the world. It was like that when I wasn’t learning how to ski, and it is like that today.
Canada offers every variety of skiing. There are more than 50 major ski areas in the country. Cross-country skiing is picking up, so even if there aren’t giant hills in your neighborhood, there will probably be snow at least. Cross-country doesn’t have the same kind of glamour as downhill, but the fresh air and the sporting qualities are the same.
BRITISH COLUMBIA: Garibaldi’s Whistler Mountain is making a bid for the 1976 Winter Olympics. Its promoters have spent almost half a million dollars already in lobbying (to be decided in May) and they have spectacular plans. It has the highest lift-serviced vertical drop in North America (4,280 feet). Parts of the mountain are accessible only by helicopter at five-dollars a ride. But that’s in virgin snow and it’s a six-mile run from peak to base. Work is already under way or planned for future giants: Rainbow Mountain, Powder Mountain and Brohm Ridge. The interior of the province has six other major areas, plus the Bugaboos made famous most recently by holiday visits from Prime Minister Trudeau and Nancy Greene. The Bugaboos are accessible only by helicopter and the lodge accommodates 30 people. As one addict put it: “You’d have to take me somewhere else to prove there could be anything better than that.”
ALBERTA: The province has five major areas. Superb skiing almost everywhere in the province. This year for the first time Banff Springs Hotel and Jasper Park Lodge are opening their staid, hallowed doors to skiers. They promise a general livening up of the old image. Control of the Lake Louise area was purchased a year ago by a group of Canadian-skier
businessmen, who promise to make it the most varied ski area in Canada. SASKATCHEWAN: A surprise perhaps, but Saskatchewan has three skiing areas. The latest hill is being constructed on thsr banks of Black Strap Lake near Saskatoon for the 1971 Winter Games.
MANITOBA: It has seven major ski areas, and in at least one of them last year there were 65 people on the slopes in 32-below-zero weather. The atmosphere is casual, more jeans than expensive Bogne* outfits, with the majority of skiers checking in under 25. ONTARIO: Eight major areas with a total
of 151 commercial resorts. The biggest boom is in the Lakehead region — an area of big hills and good skiing that’s attracting an ever-increasing number of •Americans. Central Ontario gets bigger and more complex each year. Several ^reas are still plagued with a lack of liquor licenses — the die-hard dries still hold sway. But facilities get better every year. New hills at Kitchener, Kingston and Arnprior. Everywhere snow-making machines will be doing their work, promising a complete December to April season. QUEBEC: The most dazzlingly Sybaritic area in the country. You can count on
good food and wine in all 21 major ski areas in the Laurentians and Gatineaus, and in the other 11 located in the Eastern Townships and Quebec City area. The latter has the longest ski season in the east and the proximity of the areas offers a unique opportunity to ski five hills on one ticket. Mont Ste. Anne, a jazzy jet-set resort, has the last natural snow of the year in Quebec.
ATLANTIC PROVINCES: Much new work has been done in the past five years, and thousands have gone ski-crazy. The season is from January to April. There are nine major areas: two in Newfoundland, two in
New Brunswick, the rest in Nova Scotia. Accommodation is scarce but trailers can be rented for the season and farmhouses take in skiers on the weekends. The most recent area: Labrador City, Labrador. Citizens begged the Iron Ore Co. of Canada to open a ski hill and it is highly successful.
For the first time this year, an outfit called Skican is making it possible for ski organizations to charter national flights at reduced rates. Their destination is western Canada and they hope to convince clubs that might have gone to the U.S. and Europe, to fly to our own magnificent resorts instead.
With a million skiers heading for the slopes, the lineup begins in August. Innovations: the over-the-boot pant. From
L to R: Spinnerin ski suit from Streeter & Quarles, $165; Ernst Engel jumpsuit, $90; Hencke pro boots, men’s suit by Head,
$180, from Streeter & Quarles; Lange boots from Margesson's, Toronto, $165; Ernst Engel 3-piece suit from Eaton’s, $70.
Mores: the skiing graces have their ups and downs
1. Skiers always tell you how easy it is to make contacts on the slopes. Don’t believe it. They are a groupy lot and they’ve made appointments to meet on the hills. Married skiers don’t mix with singles, who don’t mix with recent arrivals, who just have to get along as best they can. But this does not necessarily apply to women.
2. Hustlers are everywhere, an obstacle to females who really want to ski. They arë as revolting as hustlers are anywhere: crass, boring and dull.
3. Remember that the guy who looks super-sleek in ski gear isn’t going to look nearly as good in his less-well-tailored civvies. Be prepared.
4. Don’t wear a wig on the hill. It’s embarrassing when it gets caught on his ski pole.
5. A married woman who falls on the slopes should whip her wedding ring off with her glove, or she will never get any help.
6. The biggest problem is the lift line: scabs and little kids will try and muscle their way ahead of you. Just because they ski doesn’t mean they have manners. It’s de rigueur to kick back.
7. If you think the entire lift line is looking at you as you come down the hill — they are. Behind those inscrutable goggles they are being hypercritical. Skiers by nature are analytical.
8. One way to beat the crowd: ski through lunch. You will have to compete only with hotshots and pros.
9. Before it even looks like snow, spend three lunch hours hanging around a good specialty shop picking up the appropriate jargon. Otherwise, you’ll spend your time thinking that “chatter” (the noise a ski makes at high speed) means après-ski gossip.
10. If you break a leg, remember, you can spend the rest of the winter at the lodge, lying about your accident and enjoying winter at its best.
A tyro’s musts: lessons, money, trust and medicare
1. Trust your dealer. Ski-buff friends are invaluable. But all skiers consider themselves experts, so don’t let them influence you unduly. Find a professional expert who will know what’s right for you.
2. Boots must be fitted by an expert, and that’s where the biggest chunk of your ski dollar should go. If your feet aren’t comfortable, you won’t enjoy the sport or make much progress. Buy for your level' of accomplishment.
3. Skis: The old saw that your skis should
Ski types: pros, snow addicts, bunnies and bums
Every sport has its types. Perhaps because skiing is a group adventure, they are easy to identify and label, even for non-skiers.
THE PRO: Unless you rise early in the morning, you won’t see any of the elite corps of the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance. They will be giving lessons and are considered among the best in the world at doing so. The CSIA has 1,900 members and when it held its conference in Toronto recently many Americans came to get to know their Canadian counterparts and to get the word on the Canadian technique, which is uniform across the country. Many of the pros have opened specialty shops. They test all the equipment they sell at least a year in advance; some spend a lot of time on different slopes during the season. Some ski schools and clubs conduct tours to Europe on special package deals. The competitiveness in manufacturing ski equipment, they say, keeps the dealers honest, and they all want to give something back to a sport they dearly love.
THE ADDICT: In the 25-and-up age, and financial bracket. Superb skier. The kind of person who can hold down a very responsible job but, once the season starts, his weekends stretch from Thursday to Tuesday without any seeming shake-up in the job. The future owner of a super chalet, maybe even a resort. Possessor of the latest in $200 skis. The kind of person who changes gear every two years at most; who has opinions on the latest equipment even before the season begins; spends his holidays skiing in Colorado or Europe and, more recently, the Bugaboos.
THE HOTSHOT: In the 16-25 age
bracket. Skis the way he drives his car: flat out. Sports thê newest gimmicky
equipment and wears the most outlandish clothes — raccoon coats, leather vests and jeans. He skis fast, looks good and probably knows all the Canadian slopes he can get to easily. But isn’t in the European-trip stage yet. Incredibly well-informed. The kind of customer who will grill a salesman for two hours before the season opens and check back with his own corrections.
He might turn into an addict if he gets a job, or a ski burn if not.
THE SKI BUM: Sometimes he (or she) + is a student who inadvertently drops out of high school or university. He goes skiing on fiis Christmas holidays , and just can’t stop. He’s seldom married. One, an Albertan, is a plumber all summer, works double time until the season starts and then, bang, he just packs in the tools and skis for the winter. Maybe five, six or 10 ski bums will rent a lodge and bunk in together x, for the season, taking any job: tow operator, bus boys, waitresses — anything to keep skiing. Costumes a must.
THE RECREATIONAL SKIER: Families have accounted for almost 65 percent of the skiers in the past five years. It’s astonishing how many kids are barreling around in expensive clothes and good equipment. Since skiing is a car sport, -¡ it’s ideal for family outings. You can tell the family skiers by the patience they display: at first the kids refuse to ski, then they outstrip the adults. They also sleep all the way home, while the Old Man battles traffic and snow and aches. Family rates at clubs are so atv tractive that families can ski inexpensively. The family skier tends to take holidays at Christmas and Easter — a time the smart singles avoid the slopes v if at all possible.
THE SKI BUNNY: Looks absolutely gorgeous in ski clothes but never emerges v from the lodge. Not as many around these days as there used to be. Skiers are serious.
be as long as the distance measured by holding your arm up to full height is a lot of hooey. Your height, weight and ability determine the size of ski you should buy. Most dealers now recommend shorter skis for the tyro — they give more flexibility and they make learning easier. The short, short ski is great fun for learning, but not much else.
4. Bindings: You must have a binding that releases from both a twisting fall and a straightforward fall. Have it custom set.
5. Money: A beginner who isn’t sure how often he will ski can rent initially, or be outfitted quite reasonably. Plan on $40$60 for boots, plus wood skis, release
bindings and poles in the $50-$60 range. The new epoxy boots at $165 are for those who are super-keen and competent, but spending $100 on a pair of boots is a good investment: they’ll last longer, give better lateral support and you will improve faster with them. Excellent resale value if you break a leg, or change your mind.
6, Lessons: Try to take at least a group of three lessons to get over the basics. A full week at a ski school is preferable.
7. Join a ski club: You can get a complete ski-school package reasonably, you’ll make contacts fast, find cheaper accommodation, bus tours through one. There are almost 300 clubs allied with the CASA alone.
Raichle’s fibre-glass boot, $175, has a nifty inner leather boot for après ski. It’s on a preset Gertsch binding, $60. Both from Margesson’s Toronto. Table from Aardvark.
Warm-up suits: staying warm while looking cool
Skiers who wouldn’t have been caught in a lumpy-looking warm-up suit last year are now accepting them en masse. L to R: Fur coat $475, jumpsuit $135, green suit $135 by Head Sportswear; men’s 2-piece warm-up by Fusalp, $165 — all from Streeter & Quarles, Montreal. Below top: Sunglasses (by Riviera) provide a skier's one touch of glamour. Bottom: Lange's new epoxy boot is a best seller; Standard, $135. □