Summers at Lost Lake are known today for their mild diversions of picnicking, sunbathing, and paddling in inflatable Explorer 200 boats. But during the late ‘70s to early ‘80s the lake was home to Whistler’s “Summer Air Ramp” – a ski jump that launched aerialists high into the air and then deep into the water, allowing them to practice their somersaults and twists in the off-season.
Planning for the ramp was initiated in 1977 by local freestyle skiers, commonly referred to at the time as “hot-doggers,” frustrated at the lack of aerial opportunities at Whistler’s glacier summer camps. Instead of relying on a summer snow pack that was, at the best of times, “quirky,” they proposed to create opportunities for aerial training in the valley.
Funding for freestyle skiing in the west was virtually non-existent at the time, so the aerialists banded together with local community members to gather funds and expertise to begin the project.
With no development permit or permission from the SLRD, an inconspicuous site needed to be chosen. Thankfully, all eyes were on the new Village at this time, which had just had its first phase of development completed, and Lost Lake was remote enough not to draw undue attention from local authorities.
Construction was a cooperative effort – timber was scrounged from various sources in town and the plastic grass that had been used as the ski out from the old Olive Chair was salvaged from the Function Junction dump. The piecing together of timber and final overlay of the “Green Meanie” grass remarkably only took two weeks.
At its completion the ramp projected 20 feet out over the lake. Skiers would ride down the steep ramp, over the slippery plastic grass, and launch themselves as high as 40 feet above the water. “Injuries were commonplace,” says David Lalik, one of the original workers on the ramp, “but [an] acceptable risk in the sport and environment of the day.” The ramp became renowned for being particularly gnarly, even by professional aerialists, and there was sufficient demand for a second, novice ramp to be constructed after the first season of training. By 1979 Lost Lake had become a popular summer hangout for locals – many of which were spectators of the experimental aerial training. The Whistler Answer from this Summer explains that, “the vicarious excitement of watching some ‘less than hot’-dogger pull off a full face landing upon completion of a faultless flip is enough to liven up the most boring tanning session.”
Sponsors began to show an interest in the ramp and competitions started in 1981. The events only got bigger as the Summer Air Camps kicked off the next year – Lost Lake had become a renowned destination for off-season jumping! Offering training from national team coach Peter Judge (current CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association), the camps attracted all kinds of aerialists, from new to experienced. Having the lakefront crowded with hundreds of spectators was no longer anything new, and often film crews would record events for television broadcast.
Lost Lake failed to remain as remote as it once had been, and the site eventually became part of the revitalization that installed the Fairmont golf course. As Dave Lalik explains, “this ‘undesirable lot’ and their ramshackle mess … wouldn’t fit in with the new expanded, sanitized, recreation master-plan of contoured 12 foot paradise paths to ‘Lost Lake’.”
Lost Lake had been found.
-Written by guest blogger, Melinda Muller