So there I was, standing at the top of the bump run on the Whistler glacier in late July 1980, hoping I could pull it off. I stood in second place after the first run, and the guy in first place was the Japanese moguls champion and veteran of the Pro-Am freestyle circuit. At age 13, it would be a hell of an upset if I could pull this off and beat a pro who was twice my age. But I wasn’t thinking about that. I was focused on picking my fall line, envisioning each mogul I would hit, and keeping my back straight as my knees pumped up and down.
This was Tony Sailer’s Summer Ski School, which I attended for a couple of years back in the day. Tony Sailer, the Blitz from Kitz, was an Austrian ski legend. In the 1956 Olympics at St. Moritz, he won gold in all three alpine events – downhill, super G and slalom. He was a huge star in Europe, and was routinely chased from the hill by adoring fans whenever he won a race. He was the first Olympic champion I ever had the chance to meet, and on several occasions, the kids even got to run slalom against him at the ski school. Trust me when I say: we never won.
But moguls was my specialty, not slalom. At Whistler, I used to ski Chunky’s Choice (named after Chunky Woodward, the department store, uh, mogul) all day. It was the best black diamond moguls run at Whistler back then, serviced by the old Blue chair, now long gone. On a typical day, I might do it 30 times. Oh the knees! But I never felt a thing.
At the start of the 1980’s, it was rumoured that freestyle was going to become an Olympic sport and, if it happened, I’d be hitting my prime right about then. It was my dream (for about 2 years) to be the first person to ever win an Olympic gold in moguls competition.
So, today, when freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau stood in B.C. Place and accepted another first — Canada’s first gold medal won on home soil — I have to admit that I felt a real tug of emotions as the anthem was played. Sure, I never went on to Olympic glory, but wow, there was that old dream, deep inside me, suddenly pulled out of my memory store and up on display again after all these years. Amazing.
And yes, that day in late July 1980, I pulled it off. I had the run of my life. At the awards ceremony on the last day of camp, Tony Sailer announced through his thick Austrian accent to the whole ski school that I was “The kid with the hottest run on the mountain today.” It was like a dream going up on stage at the Whistler Creek Hotel, in front of all those hotshot skiers, and getting a (faux) gold medal put around your neck by an Olympic champion and true legend. I’ll never forget it.
Tony Sailer, I’m sad to report, died last year at the age of 73.
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The above photo was taken during my glorious gold medal-winning bump run on Whistler Glacier in 1980. The photo is pretty beat up and a little out of focus, but that’s me! Notice the K2 skis (160 cms), the K-Way jacket, and yes, the huge mirror shades that were all the rage back then! Stylin’, eh?
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