Once a relatively unknown sport in Canada, skiing now is a major winter pastime from coast to coast
Once a relatively unknown sport in Canada, skiing now is a major winter pastime from coast to coast
MOST of Canada’s winter sports, hockey, skating, snowshoeing, are of native origin; which is as it should be. But there is one, now very rapidly increasing in favor and making a bid for the highest position among the Dominion’s winter recreations, which is frankly of alien origin; and none the worse for that. Skiing, after a slow beginning, has in the last twenty years or so leapt ahead in popular favor, until today, from the Laurentians of Quebec to the Rockies and beyond, you may see throngs of enthusiasts for the gliding hickory blades, the double poles, and friendly rivalry in jump and telemark. Even the prairies have ^caught the infection.
Ski-running came from Scandinavia; possibly via Switzerland and the Alpine resorts there. From a small beginning in Eastern Canada forty years back it has now spread over the Dominion from coast to coast; and it is a pastime attracting every year increasing numbers of devotees, from the Governor-General downward.
The snowshoe, directly inherited from the Indians, is giving place to the ski from the snow-slopes of N orway and Switzerland.
The City of 20,000 Skiers
By M. GRATTAN O’LEARY
’Y\7r ITH its far’ * famed Laurentian mountains, fifty miles of trails, two large skiing clubs with a combined membership of over 5,000, one of the largest jumping towers in America, and
20,000 skiers, Ottawa boasts proudly and rightly, that it is one of the great skiing centres of this continent and the world. In this claim, too, it is supported by distinguished testimony; none other than that of L. C. M. S. Amery, former secretary for the Dominions, and celebrated as a skier, who, after making the Camp Fortune trail two years ago, declared it to be more adventurous and inspiring than the famous trails of Switzerland.
Twenty years ago a club for skiers was founded in Ottawa—it was one of the first on this continent—with a membership of eight. Today, on a wintry Sunday morning all the capital seems to be on skis; the numerous
parks and hills surrounding the city are dotted with skiers, and long trains of many coaches crowded to their aisles carry thousands of others to the Gatineau hills. You will find all classes, all ages, and both sexes among this throng of skiers, and with their infinite variety of picturesque garb, their haversacks, and their forest of skis, they make a stirring picture.
The story of this camp in the Gatineau wilderness is itself a record in the progress of ski-'
ing in the capital. Ten years ago it was a lumberman’s shack, capable of accommodating not more than fifty persons. Year by year, with the growth of skiing, additions have been made to it, until now over 600 persons can be accommodated at one time in a single vast dining room. Dozens of great shanty stoves provide for cooking; there is a special boiler room to heat water for tea and coffee; and it is not an unusual sight on any Sunday to see nearly a thousand skiers in or about this lodge. One of its frequent visitors last year was Lord Willingdon, an enthusiastic skier; and another was Rt. Hon.
Mackenzie King, not a great skier, perhaps, but retaining skiing with riding as the two athletic exercises his political life will permit.
The view from Camp Fortune, looking out over countless miles of snow-clad countryside, dotted here and there with pines, and with frozen lakes and rivers shimmering in the sun, is a sight not easily forgotten. And if you are hardy enough or adventurous enough to wait until the moon comes up over the mountains before starting your journey home, you are assured of one of the great thrills of life. It has been said that nobody has ever seen the stars until he has visited the Laurentians in winter, and that no moon rivals the incomparable grandeur of the Gatineau moon.
The trip back to Ottawa or to its outskirts is mostly downhill, through the famous George’s trail, or across the edge of the mountains on what is known as the Sunset trail, and whence the whole world seems laid out like a patchwork quilt at one’s feet. Down one goes over steep hills and over what sometimes seem like precipitous mountains, and out at times through clear fields of snow which in the moon and starshine seem transformed into a carpet of diamond dust. A plunge through a pine forest, its trees cleared for safe passage, and Kingsmere Lake is in sight. A steep descent; the crossing of the lake; a track over the Prime Minister’s Gatineau farm; more wonderful mile-long hills, and at last you are in sight of the lights of the city, and nearing the waiting street cars or buses that will take you home.
That is a typical day of a skier in Canada’s capital. There are, of course, many thousands whose age and skill do not permit them to take these long and more dangerous trails. But for such there are numerous city and government parks, the great expanse of Rockcliffe, and the rolling hills of the Experimental Farm. On these, on any winter day or night, and particularly on Sundays and holidays, you will find thousands of Ottawa citizens, middle-aged people, some who are past middle age, boys and girls in their teens, and some who are not even there. All around the city, indeed, you will find cosy club lodges, whose huge open fireplaces with their crackling logs welcome the novice at the end of his half-day hike; while for bolder and more adventurous hearts there are the great jumping towers at Rockcliffe, fearsome enough to satisfy the most daring skier in the world.
There may be centres in the world with more skiers and greater skiers than Ottawa possesses. One may doubt if there is any centre where so many of the population are devoted to skiing.
From the GovernorGeneral and Lady Willingdon to the most obscure worker, from Premier King and some of his ministers to the most humble civil servant—all in Ottawa are to be found at times on skis. It is the capital’s predominant winter sport.
Skiing at Montreal
By FREDERICK EDWARDS
OF ALL large Canadian cities, Montreal, with her hundreds of acres of mountain park set squarely in the middle of her sprawling suburbs, is most ideally situated for skiing. It comes as no surprise, therefore, to discover that it was in Montreal that the Scandinavian type of snowshoe first established itself firmly in the affections of winter sports followers, eventually to supplant almost completely the Indian raquette.
At McGill, in 1881, two professors who had travelled extensively in Northern Europe appeared on the campus with Norwegian skis strapped to heavily-booted feet, and during the winter months trudged solemnly around thé slopes of Mount Royal. They were apostles of a new winter sport, and the populace witnessed their performance with amusement. You may be sure, too, that there was a certain accompaniment of jibes and snickers from a younger generation committed from childhood to the woven gut and moccasins of the older type of snowshoe.
Professor R. J. Durling and Professor Percy Nobbs were these dauntless pioneers of the ski in Montreal. Huntley Drummond, now vice-president of the Bank of Montreal, an enthusiastic supporter of the new vogue, joined the group, and the movement translating the snowshoe into the Scandinavian ski was on.
In those early days skiing was a sport exclusively for the aristocracy. It was very swank, and no mere clerk or salesman would venture to essay it any more than he would, then, have worn spats or carried a cane. Its exponents were wealthy men and women of leisure. Government House at Ottawa endorsed it. Lord Frederic Hamilton, aidede-camp to Lord Lansdowne, gravely discussed the advantages of the ski over the raquette in his memoirs, under the date of 1887.
It was not until February, 1904, that the new sport
had attracted sufficient support to warrant the establishment of the Montreal Ski Club, for which the claim is made that it was the first on the North American continent. Sir Edward Clouston was honorary president and C. J. McCuaig was president. John Kerr, whose enthusiasm for skiing continued actively for years, was the first secretary-treasurer. Montreal’s first-made jump was on Fletcher’s Field on the eastern slopes of Mount Royal. Later, a second jump was built on the Westmount Upper Level, and in 1910 the present site on Côte Des Neiges hill was established with a permanent clubhouse.
Search of the archives reveals that Huntley Drummond is credited with the startling distance of seventy-six feet during the first season on the Fletcher’s Field jump. Last year, at Côte Des Neiges, Gerald Dupuis, of Ottawa made a leap of 135 feet.
Other clubs have blossomed in the years that have passed, with the aid and guidance of the parent club. One of the most active and enterprising is the Club de Ski de Mont Royal, a French-Canadian group established by that indefatigable organizer of amateur sports, Champlain Provencher. Mr. Provencher’s experts go in
heavily for cross-country work, following the old snowshoe tradition.
Also there is a prosperous Jewish Ski Club, the Scandinavian Ski Club, and—stealing Ripley’s line— believe it or not, a Chinese Ski Club.
Quebec has three clubs, the Quebec Ski Club, the Loyola Ski Club, and the Quebec Amateur Club. Battlefields Park and Montmorency Falls are centres of activity, while the big jump is at St. Sacrement. The peak event of the season is a seven-mile cross-country race, held in February between the Chateau Frontenac and the Bois Chatel Golf Club at Montmorency. A popular ski jaunt from the social point of view is to Morel’s at Ste. Anne de Beaupré.
The American tourist may always be depended upon to enliven the Quebec picture. Some of the costumes which start with vividly hued berets and end in skis are weird and wonderful. Accustomed as is the native Québécois to the bizarre blendings of striking color and design affected by visiting winter sportsmen and sportswomen, even his placidity is sometimes stirred to amazement as the brilliant-plumaged ski parties push through his snow-hung villages.
Every town of any size in the western portion of Quebec has, if not an established ski club, at least its' permanent and steadily growing group of enthusiasts. Sherbrooke and Three Rivers are especially to the fore in their support of the movement toward bigger and better skiing.
The amazing increase in the ski’s popularity has completely changed the winter scene in and around Montreal and Quebec city. Folks whose locks retain their raven hue have no difficulty whatever in recalling the days when a pair of skis was a novelty on Mount Royal, and all the lads and lassies of the village tramped on snowshoes through the drifts, clad in blanket suits and wearing tasselled toques on their heads.
No longer. The roads and trails through Mount Royal Park on any winter week-end afternoon are alive with boys and girls of all ages, sweatered, mackinawed, or clad in windbreakers or wool or leather, legs knickerbockered or encased in heavy worsted ski trousers thrust into heavy woollen socks, bamboo poles in either hand, heavy shoes harnessed to the turned-up slender snowshoes of Scandinavia. That famous old snowshoe trail known as The Gulley is a ski-track now, and for every snowshoe tramper you will find a hundred skiers— probably more.
Since the war the practice of skiing in all parts of the country has undergone a change, and nowhere is that change more markedly in evidence than in the rural districts surrounding Montreal and Quebec. Previously if one would ski, one must jump. Of recent years a vast majority of the ever increasing multitude of skiers are content to leave the jumps to the experts and to concentrate their efforts on the cross-country trails.
Percy Douglas, for many years president of the Montreal Ski Club and now president of the Canadian Amateur Ski Association, sponsors the estimate that over any fine winter week-end between 20,000 and 25,000 enthusiastic skiers will leave Montreal by rail, by suburban trolley, by automobile or bus, headed for the Laurentian foothills, packs on their backs, skis and
poles lashed together on their shoulders.
Shawbridge, Ste. Adèle, Ste. Agathe and Mont Rolland are favorite jumping-off places. From these central points the parties take to the trails, travelling twenty, twenty-five or thirty miles across country, shuffling up hills, skimming in nearflight over the frozen snow into the valleys. Even for the inexperienced a steady gait of three and a half or four miles an hour is not difficult, once the first stages of initiation have been surmounted.
Meals may be eaten around a camp fire in the snow, or in the painted matchboarded dining room of a country hotel. Nightfall finds the exodus headed for the train and town, tired, but with lungs refreshed and faces tingling from the hours of stimulating exercise among the pine-clad and snow-covered hills.
It is a fact, too, that the astonishing increase in the ski’s popularity during the past few years is having its effect upon the rural population. The habitant farmer is becoming ski conscious, and in the younger generation is discarding the slower raquette for the swift ski. The reason is not difficult of discovery. Snowshoeing is a much simpler exercise than skiing, but it lacks the swift excitement of the downhill rush which the exhilarating ski supplies. Merchandise managers report that something like 10,000 pairs of skis were sold in the Montreal district last winter, and expect that this winter will exceed that figure.
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