Tag Archives: Stephanie Sloan

Stephanie Sloan – Freestyle Superstar

Whistler is home to an exceptional number of ski champions, media stars, and otherwise accomplished athletes. One of the most under-appreciated is Stephanie Sloan. Many people know Stephanie as the wife of the late ski racing legend Dave Murray of Crazy Canuck fame, or perhaps as the mother of Olympic skier-cross competitor Julia Murray. Fewer realize that Stephanie is actually a more decorated competitive skier than either of them, combined!

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Stephanie competing in the bumps, Whistler, late 1970s. Greg Griffith Photo.

From 1976-1981 Stephanie competed on the World Cup freestyle circuit, earning 57 podium finishes and claiming the overall world championship 3 times. Moguls was her strongest discipline, but as the overall title combined results from aerials and ballet as well, she was definitely no one-trick pony!

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Getting upside-down in aerials. Laax, Switzerland, 1979.

She and husband Dave both retired from the World Cup scene around the same time, and transitioned into post-competitive life as coaches and mentors for the sport. While Dave is well-remembered for his namesake ski camps, Stephanie made a huge contribution to the sport as well through the women’s-specific camps which she launched during the 1982/83 season.

While teaching skiing to women was nothing new, there were few, if any, women-only programs focused on all-mountain techniques and able to cater to advanced skiers. As this newspaper clipping from The Province indicates, these were well-rounded clinics for serious skiers.StephSloan024 - Province article Nov 1986 Women on the March

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Stephanie Sloan (left) leading a group of ladies at one of her 7UP sponsored women’s skiing camps.

With their winter programs established, the next step was to operate year-round carrying on Whistler’s heritage as a premier destination for summer glacier skiing. Stephanie and Dave launched hugely successful summer skiing camps, with friends and colleagues from the Canadian National teams making up a large portion of the coaches. While lots of serious and high-performance training happened on the Whistler Glacier during the summer, Stephanie couldn’t resist a little fun and did photo shoots while skiing in a bathing suit nearly every summer.

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We were fortunate enough to have Stephanie into the museum this past week, sharing her many stories and photos from her life, both competing on the world tour, then growing the sport of skiing with Dave here in Whistler.

To learn more about her storied career, make sure to swing by the Whistler Museum on Sunday February 21st for our next Speaker Series event. The topic will be “Celebrity Athletes and the growth of modern skiing.” Speaking alongside Stephanie will be John Smart, former Olympic freestyle skier and founder of world-renowned Momentum Ski Camps, and Rob McSkimming, VP-Business Development and former Snow School Director for Whistler-Blackcomb. See you there!

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When: Sunday February 21st; Doors at 6pm, show 7pm-9pm
Where: Whistler Museum (4333 Main Street, beside the Library)
Who: Everyone!
Cost: $10 regular price, $5 for museum members

We expect this event to sell out, so make sure to get your tickets early. To purchase tickets stop by the museum or call us at 604.932.2019.

 

 

Dave Murray: Whistler’s First Home-Grown Hero

Dave Murray is one of the most well-known names and highly adored athletes in Whistler’s history. Thought of as Whistler’s very first home-grown hero, Murray grew up skiing on Whistler Mountain, and is originally from Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Murray had a late start in his ski Dave-Murray-ACCESS-WMA_P95_006_027_Murrayracing career, as he didn’t start racing seriously until he was 16 years old. This, of course, did not stop him from achieving great professional heights. In 1974, at 21 years old, Murray became a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team. He spent the following eight years as a founding member of the Crazy Canucks, the downhill team that captured our hearts in the 1970s and 80s with their “crazy” racing style. In Murray’s best season (1975-76) he had four top-ten finishes. In 1979, he was overall Canadian Champion and was ranked third in the world in downhill. He also represented Canada at the 1976 and 1980 Olympic games.

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The Crazy Canucks. WMA_P95_006_124 Murray

 

 

 

After 10 years on the competitive ski racing circuit Murray retired to become the director of skiing at Whistler Mountain, as well as the organizer and lead instructor of the summer ski camps. In 1984, the name of Whistler’s most popular summer ski camp was officially changed to Atomic Dave Murray Whistler Summer Ski Camp, and its fame grew to attract many skiers from Europe and Japan. Murray also organized masters ski racing for adults (an idea he imported from Europe).

Stephanie Sloan, ca. 1980.

Stephanie Sloan, ca. 1980.

On Tuesday, October 23rd, 1990, Dave Murray passed away after battling skin cancer. He was just 37 years old, leaving behind his wife and best friend Stefanie Sloan, and daughter Julia Murray. Stephanie was a pioneer in freestyle skiing and a world champion, and Julia became a member of Canada’s Ski Cross Team, and competed at the 2010 Olympics. Both continue to call Whistler home.

Dave Murray had a major influence on the world of ski racing, but perhaps what is most inspirational about his story is that he had a genuine love for skiing. His free time was spent free skiing. He took any chance he could get to explore and carve down obscure, off-piste runs, exuding pure joy on his descends. “It’s that unbelievable sense of freedom you get when you’re free-falling through the powder,” he tells friend Michel Beaudry. “It’s like nothing else on earth.”

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The Real “G” in GLC

At this year’s Icon Gone we experimented with a new head-to-head elimination format to heighten the competitive drama. The new system also introduced an interesting strategic twist, as one could potentially be presenting three times if they advanced to the final round: Do you deliver your best material up front, or, conversely, do you save your best for last with no guarantee you’ll get a chance to use it?

By most accounts the formula was effective, though it was at times hard to accept the ruthless efficiency with which it discarded so many compelling would-be  pretenders to the Icon Gone throne.

One of the most unfortunate victims was Stephanie Sloan, who hoped to reveal the true story behind “the ‘G’ in GLC.” (Stephen Vogler won the inaugural Icon Gone with a conspiracy-theory-esque exposition arguing that the “G” stands for “gravity,” which it doesn’t.)

Stephanie Sloan entertains the crowd at Icon Gone.

Stephanie delivered a solid, informative first-round presentation about the life and times of one Giuseppe Garibaldi, the nineteenth century revolutionary  credited with the creation of the modern state of Italy. Beyond his trans-Italian military campaigns, Giuseppe’s adventures took him to such exotic locales as Russia, Uruguay, Nicaragua, and New York, among others, making him a more-than-worthy namesake for so many prominent features and organizations in a region renowned for its globetrotters.

Giuseppe Garibaldi, Whistler’s only icon to have never come anywhere near the place.

At last count, Garibaldi’s name is attached to a massive volcano, a stunning alpine lake, a world-class provincial park, a hotel, a (now-abandoned) town,  an Olympic Development corporation, the company that founded Whistler Mountain, the renowned apres spot that hosted this years’ Icon Gone, and countless other local businesses. Not bad for a man that never visited the B.C. coast!

And so, with her five minutes almost up, Stephanie dangled this historical conundrum as bait for the judges’ and audience’s support, concluding with:  “If you vote me back for the next round, I will tell you how Mount Garibaldi got its name since the Iconic Garibaldi never came to this part of the world, and of Whistler’s own battles to be promote peace and freedom.”

Alas, Stephanie narrowly lost to Hi Brooks, whose ode to loved ones lost to the mountains left more than a few teary-eyed audience members, and we never got to find out. I’ve had a bunch of people write or tell me how they wished to hear the rest of Stephanie’s story, so here it is:

In 1860, the British sea captain George H. Richards of the HMS Plumper was conducting a survey of the coastline from the Fraser River Delta to the Sunshine Coast. When he encountered the massive volcanic peak at the head of Howe Sound, Richards decided that it was a fitting monument to the celebrated Italian hero, whose army had defeated the Kingdom of Naples a few months earlier, essentially creating the modern state of Italy. Garibaldi was an especially popular figure in Britain, considered a champion of Liberal democracy.

It was common practice in that era of colonial exploration to name far-flung landforms after prominent public figures back in metropolitan Europe. On the same trip Richards named a bunch of other geographic features, such as the Britannia Range of mountains along the east shore of Howe Sound, with Hanover, Windsor, and Brunswick mountains each named after a European house of nobles.

When, acting upon the advice of local mountaineers, the BC government created Garibaldi Provincial Park in the 1920s, it was an obvious decision to name the park after the mountain which was best known and most representative of the area (although there were a few calls to change the names to better reflect lobal history).

Mount Garibaldi and Garibaldi Lake from Panorama Ridge, probably the most photographed viewpoint in Garibaldi Provincial Park for the last 80-plus years.

Decades later, when a group of Vancouver businessmen started to act upon their dream of bringing the Winter Olympics to British Columbia, it made sense for them to name their organization, the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association, after the park where they planned to hold the games. They even looked into hosting the events in the Diamond Head area on the flanks of Mount Garibaldi itself, but, as we know, they eventually chose the peak known as London Mountain on government charts (again, named by an early British surveyor) but referred to locally as Whistler Mountain.

The Garibaldi Lift Company followed soon after, as GODA’s sister organization dedicated to the development of ski facilities at Whistler, and the current bar/lounge of the same name is an homage to that bygone era.

An early brochure for the upcoming development of skiing facilities on Whistler Mountain.

Beyond Giuseppe Garibaldi’s spirit of adventure, Stephanie drew a second parallel between the prolific place-name muse and our own history. When Whistler finally won the Olympic bid in 1998–a bid supported by a municipal council that Stephanie was proud to be a part of–it was seen by many as the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of efforts, akin to Garibaldi’s ultimate success 138 years earlier and half a world away.

Just as Garibaldi fought several Wars for Freedom during his lifetime, Stephanie planned on celebrating Whistler’s multiple bids to host the Winter Olympics, a movement which she describes as dedicated to ‘building a peaceful and better world’ through sport. As Stephanie’s presentation on this great, largely unknown icon would have concluded: “Garibaldi would be amazed to see all of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.”