Part way through my interview with brothers Al and John McInnes, Al mentions that John was the North American ski jump champion in 1969. John, who also competed in ski jumping during the 1974 and 1978 Olympics, is quick to give credit back to Al who he says was instrumental in organizing ski jumping events in Revelstoke.
“If it wasn’t for the work Al put in there wouldn’t have been too many tournaments I think,” said John. “He’d take about a month off before a tournament. We get too much snow here for ski jumping. You want just a little bit where it’s colder and not much snow.”
For the two brothers, who moved from Surrey to Revelstoke as children when their family purchased a saw mill, ski jumping started out as simply being something they could do.
“In those days they didn’t have a lift anywhere on any of the ski hills,” said Al, the eldest of the two brothers. “You basically had to walk.”
While Al admitted he never had the same caliber of talent as John, he did ski jump until he finished school and started working in the family sawmill business. He also worked as a volunteer on the ski jump for 13 years from 1962-1975.
“We didn’t have any groomers. This was all by hand. We had hand and foot and skiis. We had to prepare the hills and it just kept on snowing, you just kept on working,” said Al.
Both McInnes brothers recalled that in the 1940s and 1950s ski jumping was a big community event.
“They used to bring in a train from Vancouver and one from Calgary and people stayed right on the train. They just parked them in the yard,” said Al. “The spectators would sleep on the trains.”
While ski jumping makes up a huge portion of John and Al’s youth in Revelstoke, both brothers also spent time working in the logging industry. Their family owned a sawmill in Revelstoke from 1956 to 1971.
“We sold to Downie Street Sawmill and then I worked for Bell Pole as Logging supervisor.” says Al, who retired in 1996.
John is still working in refrigeration appliance repair but also helped out with the family business when it was still running.
“I worked more at the sawmill,” he says. “Al looked after all the logging and my dad looked after all the logging sales and that sort of thing so it worked out pretty well.”
For the two brothers being part of the family business was mostly a good thing, however it did have its moments.
“We got along pretty good,” says Al. “Once in a while you know, dad was born in the depression on the prairies and money was tight, so sometimes I’d want to buy equipment and he’d buy the cheapest or the used and there’d be a little rumble over that. But in general it was pretty good.”