canucks book tour 

By Loreth Beswetherick When Whistler writer and historian Janet Love-Morrison sat down to pen a piece on World Cup history for a local newspaper four or five years ago, she had no idea it would lead to a book on the ventures of Canada’s famous Crazy Canucks. But it did. Toronto’s Warwick publishers recently entered into a deal with Love-Morrison and issued her an advance to polish up the project she has been toiling away at part-time since she sat first sat down to write that story. If all goes according to plan, the book will be released this time next year and the launch will coincide with a Crazy Canuck reunion tour, which will touch down at four or five locations across the country including Whistler. The tour, in turn, will mark the 25th anniversary of the Crazy Canucks’ first win on the World Cup circuit, Ken Read’s victory at Val d’Isere in December of 1975. "And I get to go on the tour," said Love-Morrison who is over the moon at the fruition of her work. The book will document the lives of the four skiers who dominated World Cup skiing for a decade — Read, Steve Podborski, Dave Irwin and the late David Murray. The young and colourful downhill demons stole the ski limelight from the Europeans in the late 1970s and early 1980s and inspired the North American imagination. Love-Morrison’s story on World Cup history linked her up with Podborski, who was working for Blackcomb. She had asked him to critique the piece for her, especially the section on Murray, who died in 1990 at age 37 when he was director of skiing for Whistler Mountain. "Steve was great. He gave me a lot of his time." Love-Morrison said he encouraged her to write the book about the four of them. "I knew Ken had his book and Steve had his but a story on the group hadn’t been done," said Love-Morrison. "He was so supportive and he basically opened the door for me to contact Ken and Dave. It just snowballed from there." Her research has taken her on Greyhound buses across the country. She spent time in the Kootenays, Calgary, Canmore and Ottawa. She travelled to Loch Lomond in Thunder Bay where Irwin learned to ski. Love-Morrison also flew to Europe where she spent six weeks and managed to interview Austrian downhiller Franz Klammer. She visited four of the World Cup downhill courses and spent time with the archivist in Kitzbühel, Austria. "Everyone could not have helped me more." Love-Morrison also ended up, by chance, in Chile and Argentina where the Canadian team trained in the 1970s. "I was in those ski areas and on those roads they travelled in South America and it was a total co-incidence." The next step is refining and editing the completed manuscript. Marketing consultant Mike Hurst is masterminding the re-union tour, something he has done before as vice president of marketing for Whistler Mountain in the mid ’80s. He developed the concept of a Crazy Canuck celebrity event when marketing the 1986 World Cup race at Whistler. "It was a wonderful event and very well received," said Hurst. "We always thought one day we might revisit it." But Murray passed away and plans were put on hold. The remaining Crazy Canucks, however, are keen on doing the tour and helping the book along at the same time, said Hurst who is currently negotiating sponsorships. He said the plans are at a very early stage and will likely be firmed up after a meeting next month. The idea is for the tour to start in December next year and run through to the spring. It will follow a similar format to the 1986 tour with a guest skier filling Murray’s place in each resort. In 1986 the four Crazy Canucks skied with celebrities and corporate guests. Each team had 25 skiers. "Basically it was a quad slalom event with a fund-raising dinner and silent auction," said Hurst. But the day before the event the Crazy Canucks skied with about 100 kids from the Whistler and Blackcomb ski clubs. Funds raised went to local ski programs. Hurst said the 2000 event will likely see the Canucks arriving in a resort for the weekend — probably Whistler, Mont Tremblant, Lake Louise and Collingwood. There would be a Friday night reception and book signing. Saturday would be spent with local kids and Sunday would be with corporate sponsors and invited guests. All funds raised would be shared by the local ski areas or charities within participating communities. "There will probably be a national charity involved as well." Love-Morrison said she was helped by editors Barbara Zapyko and John Wells. She also received valuable input from local ski writer Doug Sack and transcripts of about 20 interviews from John LaRose who produced a CBC Life and Times documentary on the Crazy Canucks. "I got quotes from people it would have been really tough for me to get to," said Love-Morrison. "John interviewed journalist Matthew Fisher who followed the Crazy Canucks for 10 years. He lives in Russia now where he is a foreign correspondent in Moscow," she said. "It was a fluke he happened to be passing through Toronto. John whipped to Toronto to interview him at the airport and he sent me all the transcripts. It was such a giving thing to do." Love-Morrison has been told the book will probably sell better in Europe, the heart and soul of downhill racing. "In Europe they just love these guys." But, more than anything she is pleased their story is being told. "As Canadians we don’t ring our own bell enough and I think we truly need to acknowledge Canadian accomplishments," she said. "This is Canadian sports history. I followed their careers avidly when I was young and drove up to races here at Whistler in the early ’80s. I think the Crazy Canucks personify Canadians. They are incredible ambassadors for this country."

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