Loppet Organizer Doug Hollingsworth received this great letter from Peter Kopp, one of the skiers in the Over 60 age class at the 2011 Tay Valley Loppet.
Good to see you at the Loppet each year , you brought back some memories of the ski team days at Lisgar for me, that I’ve always wanted to write down. Before you arrived at Lisgar and coached the ski team, my first x-c ski coach at Queen’s was Doug Argue, a history teacher. There was a Ski-Meister race for high schools every year which was 4 –way (events) Sl, GS, X-C and jumping. Most of us were downhill ski rats that took a bus from the market to Camp Fortune every weekend and kept our skis in a locker at Alexander Lodge for $10 a year! Season lift passes were $25 per year. Often we would hitch-hike home from Fortune to save money and end up across the Chaudiere or Champlain bridges, catching a city bus to get home. We lived at Camp Fortune every weekend and flew off the midget or junior ski jumps on downhill skis but knew nothing about cross-country, that empty lodge at the end of the valley where you had to bring your own lunch to eat. No fries! Many ski families hung out at Camp Fortune: the Donnellys, the Langevins, the Gaulins, the Fentons, and Birds and we were all attending different high schools but all knew each other as members of the ‘Ottawa Ski Club’ with little coloured badges on our ski jackets.
In grade 9, the regular ski rats were recruited for the ski team at Lisgar and GS and SL was no problem. That was normal skiing. Jumping in alpine skis was the same as catching air off big moguls except that Fred Morris, one of the jumping coaches at Fortune, was always on the lookout for young recruits to try his heavy Paul Bunyan boards. One or two ski rats even went off the 60m ski jump in downhill skis and survived. The problem area was the cross-country event where many schools had ‘no’ entries. One competitor even completed the course on downhill skis, skating around the trail, possibly the first person to introduce skating technique to cross-country ski racing in the early 60’s. I believe he unbuckled his ski boots but still chafed a lot of skin off his shins. Enough that no one else wanted to try it.
At Lisgar Doug Argue was trying to prepare us for the cross-country race but we had no equipment . He had one or two extra sets of equipment to lend if you happened to match his boot size. His solution was to get us to take running shoes out of the lost and found at the gym or bring in old ones. He would drill or melt a hole in the top of the shoes over the toes. Next he would attach the running shoes to the skis with a wood screw and large washer through the soles…permanently. Then cover the hole in the top with duct tape. The trick was to change into your skis outside without getting snow in your shoes. It was enough to get us out on the snow and plant the seed of x-c skiing. We had military orders to ask for x-c boots for Christmas or birthdays even if they did cost $25. Bindings were $6.95 and it was easy to get mis-matched single skis from people who had broken one ski, as the wood skis broke all the time. Gradually we acquired our own equipment even if we only used it a week or two each year. I had an advantage of living along the canal and being able to ski to school 2 weeks before Ski-Meister.
When I look at ski packages now at 3 or 4 hundred dollars with every new boot requiring a new $70 binding, I wonder how kids get started in cross-country skiing these days. Oh, I forgot…..there is no Ski-Meister event anymore and probably no more high school ski teams.
Too bad, those were great memories,
Thanks for coaching Doug!