Tag Archives: Dave Lalik

Summer Skiing On (and Off) the Mountain

In the late 1970s, there were two very different ways to ski in Whistler during the summertime: on the snow of the Whistler Glacier with the Toni Sailer Summer Ski Camps (TSSSC) and into the water off of the Lost Lake ski jump. Both got their start as a way for skiers to train through the summer months, though they also attracted recreational skiers looking to learn something new.

The first TSSSC was held in 19966, headed by Austrian alpine ski racer Toni Sailer. At the time, Whistler’s Glacier Bowl was one of the only year-round snowfields in Canada that was easily accessible by lifts, meaning camp participants didn’t have to rely on helicopters or hiking at the beginning and end of each day with their ski gear on their backs.

Toni Sailer, six-time Olympic gold medalist, comes to Whistler from Austria every year to run the ski camp. Whistler Question Collection.

The programming was largely driven by the need for competitive alpine racers to stay in shape and improve their techniques between competition seasons, but the camps were popular with both competitive and recreational skiers. Over the years they expanded to include camps for kids and instruction in novice and intermediate racing, recreational skiing, and, in 1973, freestyle skiing under the tutelage of Wayne Wong, George Askevold, and Floyd Wilkie.

Three well-known hot dog skiers show off their style in 1973 at the Tony Sailer Summer Ski Camp. Left to right: George Oskwold, Wayne Wong and Floyd Wilkie. Murphy Collection.

By 1977, however, freestyle skiers in Whistler had grown frustrated at the lack of summer aerial opportunities offered by the Whistler Mountain camps and began planning for their ski jump in the valley. This ski jump was given no development permit nor any official permission from the newly created Resort Municipality of Whistler or the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and therefore an inconspicuous, out-of-the-way site was required. The group selected a spot on the shores of Lost Lake.

The ski jump also had no funding. The timber was scrounged from a number of sources and the plastic grass ski out from the Olive Chair was taken from the dump and given a new life as the ski jump’s surface. Construction progressed quickly once the materials were gathered, taking over a couple of weeks.

The ski jump emerges from the forest onto Lost Lake. Whistler Question Collection.

When finished, the ramp projected out 6 m over the lake and willing skiers could launch themselves into the air up to 12 m above the water. According to Dave Lalik, one of the original workers on the ramp, “Injuries were commonplace but [an] acceptable risk in the sport and environment of the day.”

Spectators were common, often watching from the water. In 1981, the ski jump began hosting competitions and the first Summer Air Camp at Lost Lake was held in 1982, drawing freestyle skiing to Whistler to train with the national team coach Peter Judge. Far from remaining an inconspicuous site, the Lost Lake Ski Jump could be seen in television broadcasts ad film crews arrived to record events.

A skier flies over Lost Lake. Photo courtesy of Dave Lalik.

Neither Whistler Mountain nor Lost Lake offer opportunities for summer skiing today. Summer ski camps ended on Whistler Mountain in the late 1990s due to the receding glacier and low summer snow levels and, as Lost Lake became less and less lost and more developed, the ski jump was taken down and the site was incorporated as part of Lost Lake Park.

Lost Lake Ski Jump

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.

Aerial practice. David Lalik Collection.

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.

Looking down the ramp. David Lalik Collection.

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.

Spectators at the jump. David Lalik Collection.

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