First tracks: Early freestyle skiing in Revelstoke

Freestyle skiers on Mount Mackenzie, circa 1978.  - Mike Pirnke/Revelstoke Museum & Archives
Freestyle skiers on Mount Mackenzie, circa 1978.
— image credit: Mike Pirnke/Revelstoke Museum & Archives

This is the seventh of an eight-part series of excerpts from First Tracks: A History of Skiing in Revelstoke, the latest book from the Revelstoke Museum & Archives.

By Revelstoke Museum & Archives

Around 1972, a group of boys in their early teens and younger began trying out a new sport called freestyle skiing. This group included Keith Bramhill, Robert and Bruce Granstrom, Mike Helyer, Rob Flick and Lee Humphries. They had watched Canadian freestyle pioneer Wayne Wong on TV and they wanted to try out his tricks.

“We idolized Wayne Wong,” remembered Bramhill, who was in grade eight when the boys started. “We just started doing the tricks that we saw the skiers do on television. Some of the things we were watching were the first front flips and back flips and 360s.”

The boys had no coach so they invented their own methods, Bramhill said.

“We found that doing a front flip on long skis was difficult. So we would take a hacksaw and cut off our skis so they were about two feet long. And have them really short and then we’d do a flip with the really short skis on and then we’d graduate to bigger skis.”

A lack of coaching contributed to accidents, Bramhill recalled:

My friend Rob Flick was attempting to do a big trick. The ski patroller (Clyde Newsome) was standing there watching and he said (into the radio), ‘I may need a toboggan. I’ve got somebody down here about to attempt a double back flip. You want to have a ski patroller on hand.’ Sure enough my friend goes off the jump, attempts a double back flip and Clyde Newsome is calling ‘He’s got one flip in. Ah, now he’s coming around for the second. No, he’s not going to… Yup, he’s down. Ah, ah, he’s down. Yup, bring the toboggan. We’ll need the toboggan.’ Sure enough, they put Rob on a toboggan and they haul him off because there was a suspected spinal injury and Rob ended up in the hospital for a day or two.

Freestyle skiing at the time had three disciplines: ballet; moguls and aerials. Mas Matsushita first took up ballet and moguls in Vernon – the centre of freestyle skiing at the time – before he moved to Revelstoke in 1977.

Ski ballet used many of the moves of figure skating and gymnastics, he recalled. Programs were choreographed to music. Skiers had short skis and did flips, spins, walkovers, and walkovers with poles which got them even higher.

Skiers used the lower part of the T-bar hill, which had a slight incline, and they were judged on speed, choreography and tricks.

First Tracks, the History of Skiing in Revelstoke, is due out in early December. Pre-orders can be made at the Revelstoke Museum & Archives or by calling 250-837-3067. The book is $40 inc. HST if ordered before Dec. 1, and $45 inc. HST afterwards.


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