A century ago, the Scandinavians brought their love of things snowy and steep to the mountains surrounding the new townsite of Revelstoke. Once referred to as the “Cradle of Western Skiing”, Revelstoke citizens encouraged many and various angles of skiing over the years.
By the 1920’s citizens regularly enjoyed the carnival like atmosphere of the competitions held here, and the club’s letterhead proudly bore the inscription “The Home of the World Famous Tournament of Champions.”
Revelstoke Ski Club claims the prestige of being the oldest ski club in British Columbia with sustained membership as far back as 1891. (Rossland is known to have organized earlier but was inactive for a period).
An early photo bearing the 1891 date, with Revelstoke Ski Club scrawled on the verso, is our club’s first proof of existence. This same photo of 6 skiers with “odd looking contraptions tied to their feet” was the same image displayed on the sweatshirt sold a few years ago. Period news articles referred to the footgear as Norwegian snowshoes. Revelstoke’s ‘official’ club status is argued to have been documented on Dec. 12th 1914.
It was in this year that the club rose to ski sport prominence by hosting tournaments attracting over 2000 spectators, many arriving in special trains from Vancouver.
Membership rose from 23 to 300 by the 1920’s when the ski club graduated into the big time. It was the largest ski club in Canada in 1915 and Revelstoke was the “Capital of Canada ’s Alps .” The cream of ski jumping from all over the world accepted invitations to try the big jump in Mount Revelstoke National Park .
Our own Nels Nelson qualified for the Olympics, but the political decision makers of the time deemed it inappropriate that he and his Canadian team members would have to pay their way working passage on a steamer, and refused the team permission to go.
Many of our own Revelstokians became influential in the spread of the Nordic sport, whether it be jumping, cross-country, downhill or ski running (skiing with one 6 foot long pole). The club encouraged all disciplines until 1990 when the cross-country and alpine division separated into two distinct clubs. Even though the thrill of ski jumping had its heyday in the 20’s, interest in bringing the sport back home and reopening the jump continued into the 1980’s.
Over the years many championships have been held here, many champions have called Revelstoke home. Nels Nelsen was a mentioned earlier jumper, his younger brother Ivnvid and Gunnarsen boys also took on the thrill of the trestle. The names of Gordon Hooley and Drennen Holten also belon to the days when ski running was King of Sports. Bob Lymburne’s jump in 1933 finally received world record recognition in 1978. Isobel Coursier and Sigura Halvorsen played significant roles are female participants in “running, jumping and swinging” on ‘slicks’.
In the 40’s names such as Booty Giffith and Earle Pletch and Art Johnston hit the record books. In those years, before there was anything more than a rope tow, before there was a National Team, it was almost impossible to get enough mileage to compete in downhill. It was in this decade that skiing began to change big time and equipment and technique began to evolve into what we know to day. Only large centers could afford chair lifts I the early post war days, and these centers made downhill and slalom races a new focus for the big ski areas. Others such as Johnny McInnes continued to please the crowds at the jump into the 60’s and 70’s, making the international circuit. Canadian jump records were set by Chris Selberkk and Kjell Sjoberg in ’66 and ’67.
Larry Nelles became an Alpine coach for the Canadian Team and was on the National Alpine Team in the 1960’s. This was the decade of Nancy Greene, the Red Mountain skier for whom our junior racing program is named. In the past twenty years, Greg Humphrey, Danny Moar and Denise Fitchett have skied for the Canadian National team and Kim McKnight became a B.C. Alpine team member. Kendra Kobelka skied to World Fame in the 1980’s, once again focusing the eyes of the skiing world on Revelstoke.
These are only some of the names that have made ouir town ski famous, many others, too numerous to mention have their names in the local and provincial record books. Moira Jaatteenmaki, as Alpine Officals Chairman for the British Columbia Division of Alpine Canada, has been instrumental in setting up a programme to help train and evaluate the officials who organize the racing programs for our youth.
The high proportion of world class alpine skiers produced by Revelstoke Ski Club attests to the strength of the skills program and to the high caliber of coaching oiur youth have had available to them. Revelstoke continues to be the home to some of the best alpine skiing in the world and the Revelstoke Ski Club continues it’s determination to baptize our young athletes in the art of skiing for decades to come.
Worthington, Sam. The Ski Race. Sandpoint; Selkirk Press, 1980