The Kelowna Ski Club (KSC) started up sometime in the mid-50’s. One of the founders, Doug Herbert, now resides on Saucier Road. The club was a social club for Kelowna residents who enjoyed the sport of alpine skiing. The clubs’ original location was on the Black Knight Mountain Ski Hill, now known as Black Mountain, and had two rope tows and a ski jump.
Dr. Allan France, retired physician, spearheaded the building of a ski cabin that was also a Bed & Breakfast on the Greystokes site. A full time caretaker was employed and everything seemed to work out well for the club until the first condo complex “The Monashee” was build at Big White. Many of the ski club members purchased units in the Monashee so the ski cabin became less used and started running the club into debt. Big White took over the Ski Clubs’ debt and in return got the club cabin. Finding little use for the cabin, Big White burned it down!
With the burning of the cabin, the KSC ‘social club’ era came to an end….and the “Alpine Junior Racing Club” era began (around 1965). During the years of 1968 – 1973, Doug Fraser, Jamie Brown and John Kane were instrumental in the development of the race club and were known as “THE 3 OFFICIALS” in the Okanagan area. Ski racing was governed by the CASA – Canadian Amateur Ski Association – later to be known as the CSA or Alpine Canada as we know it today. Some of the first club racers were: Georg Athans Jr., Ladd Snowsell, Bob Jones, Kathy Parton, Rick Coulthart, to name a few.
During a race, the racer was started by waving a flag at the top of the course large enough for the one hand time at the bottom of the course to see. Results were produced using ‘daily tables’ received from the CASA. There were only 2 sets of the daily tables available in Western Canada so the ski race had to be booked well in advance. The daily tables were the size of house construction plans. Results were done by hand and usually took at least a week to finish and send out.
The mountain did not have packers so the race run had to be boot packed frequently during the season. Big White had a T-Bar lift and the races (only GS’s) took place on what is now known as Roller Coaster. On the right hand side of the T-Bar, the KSC had a developmental Downhill run as the only other Downhill. Downhill races in BC were at Rossland & Fernie and were very difficult with many racers ending up getting hurt at their first downhill event.
The club did not have any assets in the early ‘70’s so George Athans Jr. developed an idea to raise money to purchase gates for the races. A SKIATHON – The Skiathon raised $400 to buy the gates which cost about $1 - $1.25 each. The gates were plastic like pipes that really hurt if you hit them and if knocked out of the snow the gates would slide forever, many never to be found till the snow melted and many were at the very bottom of the valley. Eventually neoprene-like caps were purchased to stop the high loss of the disappearing gates.
The ski clubs’ first hired coach was Chris Vajda. The mountain was only open on weekends and the only way the ski club could afford the coach was from the generosity of John Hindle, a former Mayor of Kelowna, who provided free accommodation to the coach in his guest cabin on Okanagan Lake. The second ski coach was a former KSC racer, Ladd Snowsell who remains in the ski industry today as GM in the Banff area.
The first major ski event hosted by the KSC was the Pontiac Cup GS in 1971. It was a National race. IN 1970 – 1971 the Nancy Greene Ski League was introduced at Big White. Brian James, who remains active in the ski clothing/equipment industry in Kelowna and at Silver Star Mountain, ran the ski school and was a big supporter of the ski club. He proved Nancy Greene lessons through his ski school. The firs coach with BJ Ski School was Dave Ware who was a Level 3 Instructor and a Level 3 Coach (strong credentials in 1970). The Nancy Greene program remains strong today with 100 (+/-) young skiers receiving lessons each year. At present the club has 3 coaches; Derek Trussler, Head Coach, Trevor Haaheim, Assistant Coach, & Floyd Gniewotta, J3 Coach.
We thank Sandie Hales for her many discussion trying to track down our history and to Vera Ito and Jamie Brown for the memories.
In the fall of 1996 the owners of Big White Mountain (the Schuman Family) donated a piece of property above the bottom of the Ridge Rocket Chair Lift. Dave Bain assisted in moving the ‘Cabin’ on to the new location. This cabin was once the Ski Shop situated where the ‘Loose Moose’ upper Day Lodge is today. It was then moved to where the present ‘mall’ is and operated as the BW Ski School office. With its latest move a foundation was put under the existing room and a basement added. The club raised funds for the renovations through its annual ski swap and Bingo and Casino revenues. The Ski Club had its 27th Annual Ski Swap in October 1997. The first year was chilly and a furnace was added. The summer of 1997 saw siding added but the cabin still was without water or plumbing. The next project will be a new roof and paint on the siding….. Care to help?
Information provided by Sandie Hales