As the popularity of ski jumping started to dwindle and interest in downhill skiing took off, several downhill runs were built on the lower slopes of Mt. Revelstoke for the 1939 Western Canadian Championships. Parks Canada actually ponied up $200 to build a downhill course that started up around the 11 mile marker on the summit road… 3000 vertical feet of beaver-licious fun.
In January, that same year, four boys set off on skis from Revelstoke with the intent to ski the 183 mile route to Golden, BC on the original Big Bend road up and around the Columbia river (“What are you doin’ tomorrow? I don’t know, what are you doin’ tomorrow? I don’t know what are you doin’ tomorrow? I don’t know, youse guys wanna go ski to Golden or sumpthin?”). Don, Bill, Alex McCrae and Jim McDonald set out on the journey, but only Don, Bill and Jim finished the trip (Alex was ditched in a trappers cabin by the rest of the crew when he got sick… he recovered just fine and skied home alone). As reported by the Canadian Press at the time of their arrival in Golden:
The boys were tired and hungry and said all they wanted was a good sleep
They went on to describe the 11-day trip as “tough”. BIG time – Hell Ya!
Back to Mt. Revelstoke National Park and 1961. While backcountry powder snobs with good winter tires would have to wait another 2 years for the Rogers Pass route of the TransCanada Highway to open, hardcore downhill skiers living in Revelstoke recived a new 1600 foot Poma lift complete with a whopping 535 feet of vertical. Shortly after, in 1963, a new rope tow was also opened and together they created a ‘large’ recreational skiing area complete with night skiing that would last until…
1968 man. Originally known as Powder Springs, the first ski hill on Revlestoke’s “other” mountain, Mt. Mackenzie, opened with a single two-person lift and was followed up with a cat skiing operation in the early ’70’s. Check out this February 8, 1968 article by Kurt Hilger, from the UBC magazine, Ubyssey:
… Whistler has become over-crowded and expensive within the last few years and as a result it is becoming difficult to find a ski resort that has good facilities and is easy to reach. The only solution is to turn to the little known slopes of the interior. One of these can be found in the Revelstoke area”.
Not so sure about the easy to reach part (even these days), but groovy to think you could basically read the same thing today and not bat an eye.
After years of speculation, in late 2005 construction started on the new Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Powder Springs was relegated to the name of a downtown hotel, the old Powder Slug chairlift was sold off piece meal and the local dialect began to take on a eerie Australian tone six months of the year.
While it can be hard to escape the “I’m-so-rad” factor that the modern ski-industry tries to cram past our consumer culture medicated gag reflex, it is important to remember that Revelstoke and the Big Bend has a skiing history that will outlive all the re-hashed neon and bro-bra BS that you can throw at it. Thanks to hardworking guys like Ole and Nels and strong women like Isabel and Anna, ski tradition has deep roots in these parts and way-back-when, handcrafted ski building was also a big part of that tradition. Bigbend Skis looks to reflect this history and tradition and to try it’s hardest to carve out a little piece of it’s own. We work hard to make great skis… custom sticks to reflect who you are in the art of skiing and to propel you into the whiteness of winter with a hoot and a holler and a smile that lasts for days afterwards. We want everyone to appreciate what we offer… cool-kids and not-so-cool-kids alike. Love skiing… that’s our only request.