Tom Pro(chazka) – a profound love for the mountains 

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He says it even saved his reputation once. "Well," he begins, "a bunch of the older guys had built a gelandesprung up on the Peak. And people kept telling me I should do the jump." Being a teenager, and feeling relatively invincible, Pro decided to take them up on their challenge. He went for the leap. And he decided to take it at speed. "Man, I soared," he says, the awe of that moment still in his voice more than 40 years later. "I flew over 120 feet that day. Cleared the tranny and landed flat on my back. I mean, I hit so hard I s**t myself."

Now what? "There was no way I could go down in the tram with my pants full," he says. "That would have been just too embarrassing. So I decided to ski home instead." He stops. A big grin spreads across his face. "And nobody ever found out..."

Although it certainly scared him, the jump didn't put a brake on his skiing antics. "Those years were a lot of fun," he says. "Every day of the winter, as soon as school was out at 3:30, we'd head up the mountain. There was a whole gang of us. And we all got better together — but not just as racers. As skiers too!" And he explains. "We skied whatever was there — groomed or ungroomed, on-piste or off, in good conditions or even really lousy conditions. Sometimes it was so foggy nobody could see a thing! But we'd still be out there anyway... and we did it all on one pair of skis!"

Pro made the Vancouver Ski Team when he was 15 or 16. He can't remember which. All he knows is that it totally changed his world. "That's when I got acquainted with the Whistler skiers — you know, people like Dave Murray and Chris Parsons and the O'Sullivan sisters." He laughs again. "Skiing was my life, man. School wasn't pushed on me all that much. Besides, I wasn't a very good student to begin with... so I was allowed to let my studies slide a bit."

Note: Pro finally did make it through High School. He attended night classes after retiring from ski racing and graduated when he was 21!

But where was I? Oh yeah — ski racing in the early 1970s. Which bore little resemblance to its modern counterpart... especially at the junior level, where most coaches were semi-pros at best and parents were less involved in their kids activities than they are today. "Things were a lot looser," says Pro. "We were very much expected to be responsible for ourselves..."


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