In a transient town with people and businesses constantly coming and going, one club has stood the test of time. The Tyrol Ski and Mountain Club has celebrated its 60th anniversary at the Austrian Club in Richmond.
"We've kept a pretty low profile over the years," said Jim Brown, Tyrol Club President since 1989.
"It's only now because we've been here so long that people are starting to recognize that there's maybe some historical significance here. The interest started to build after our 40th anniversary for the lodge."
The roots of the Tyrol Ski and Mountain Club trace back to the north shore mountain of Hollyburn, the epicentre of skiing in the Lower Mainland during the '40s and '50s. A group of Swiss, German and Austrian friends were either working at the ski school at Hollyburn or skiing there in the winter and decided to form their own ski club.
The first AGM was held at the Café Seabreeze in Vancouver's West End in the fall of 1952 with around 30 attendees. The original name for the organization was "The Austrian Ski and Mountain Club," however, given that World War II had ended just seven years earlier the less controversial name of "The Tyrol Club" was finally chosen instead. Tyrol is a province in western Austria that encompasses famous ski destinations such as Innsbruck and Kitzbühel.
While the aims of the club were to promote "skiing, hiking, touring and love of the mountains," social gatherings became as much a part of the club culture as did the outings. A little cabin at the base of Mount Seymour was purchased in 1955 and became a hotspot on the weekends, usually filling up during the week thanks to the attractive rate of 25 cents a night. Many Christmas and New Year's parties (as well as regular dances) went down at that cabin and it stood for 17 years before the Parks Board decided to try and clear the park of cabins in 1972.
In the late '50s Seymour was beginning to get crowded and the club was looking for a change. Founding member Stefan Ples had met a prospector in a shoemaker shop on Robson Street and the aging man agreed to let Tyrol members use his property to explore the mountains around Alta Lake. The prospector sadly died that year so his property on the shores of Alta Lake came up for sale. It was quickly purchased by the club. The land sat for a couple of years while keen Tyrol members ski toured in the surrounding mountains, which lead to Ples meeting Franz Wilhelmsen (soon to be president of the Garibaldi Lift Co.) and together they shared visions of developing a ski area at the base of London Mountain (now Creekside).
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