Skiing stories aren’t as prominent in Canadian culture as, say, stories about Grey Cup games or hockey exploits by names like Beliveau, Hull, Orr and Gretzky, but they are a part of who we are. Like Canadian history, Canadian skiing stories are far more colourful and interesting than most of us realize.
John Clifford, later the father of 1970 world champion Betsy Clifford, was determined to race in the 1946 Hemispheric Championships in Chile. To do so he started out a year ahead of time, hitchhiking from Ottawa to New York City, working nights in a Dairy Queen on Coney Island while he spent his days looking for a ship that would take him to Chile. Eventually he found a ship and negotiated working passage. He also learned Spanish on the voyage.
He arrived in Chile months ahead of the race, where he made his own equipment and trained for the race — which he won.
Lucile Wheeler became the first North American woman to win world championship medals, in downhill and giant slalom, in 1958. Nancy Greene was the first woman to ever win the World Cup title. The achievements of the Crazy Canucks captured the attention not only of Canada but of European nations.
Skiing is also part of Whistler’s heritage. From Whistler pioneer Walter Zebrowski, who carried his skis across two continents during the Second World War, to the racing and teaching legacy of the man whose name is on the Whistler Mountain downhill course, skiing and Whistler share a rich tradition.
This weekend’s World Cup races are part of a new tradition made possible by a number of people who had the vision to see an opportunity for Whistler and the dedication to make it a reality. The World Cup in Whistler is more than a ski race; in the future it will contribute to the community’s social fabric, making Whistler a better, more rounded place to live.