Sir Sam’s Ski Challenge brings people together
By Darren Lum
Feb. 7, 2017
The long-running Sir Sam’s Ski Challenge not only brings out the competitive side of people, but is a fun way to spend the afternoon, says organizer JD Bishop.
The Eagle Lake resort prides itself on how it caters to families.
“This is what we are. A family destination. Memories are made here from way back and so racing is fun because you don’t get a chance to do it at every other ski hill [where] you just go down. When you’re skiing through gates it’s exciting. You’re up on a pedestal there [to start]. You take off through the first gate. Everyone is watching and it’s exciting. It’s like car racing only you’re racing against your [family or friends],” he said.
The giant slalom timed races up to a hundredth of a second are from noon to 2 p.m. every Sunday.
They are on the Cash Register run and are held from Jan. 15 until March 4. Registration for each Sunday are available for $10 and participants must sign a waiver. There are $3,000 in prizes available with a random $100 cash prize each Sunday and $1,000 grand prize on the last day of the series.
Competitors are eligible for the top money prize if they race any three races and the final. Although prizes are given to winners, the money prizes are left to chance with names entered into draws. There are seven races and one final. The more races entered the more chances to win the top cash prize.
New this year is updated medals for the top three finishers with the Sir Sam’s new logo at the centre.
Bishop said the origins of the event go back to the early 1980s with the Molson sponsored Molstar, a ski race between ski instructors around the province like Bishop and the famed Crazy Canucks. The Canucks were five Canadian National Alpine Ski Team downhill skiers, renowned for their reckless style and strong finishes in the World Cup during the 1970s and 1980s. Bishop remembers losing by five seconds to Steve Podborski, who was the pace setter at the host venue Blue Mountain.
Sir Sam’s soon started their own challenge, using a similar concept with a handicap structure so skiers here could pit their times against Podborski. There was an instructional basis to the challenge that still applies, Bishop said.
“The whole idea behind racing was people weren’t into it that much back then. It was to improve. The more chances you got to race the better you got obviously,” he said.
Bishop said there has always been racing at Sir Sam’s, which began a year after it started in 1965.
Back then the race gates weren’t the breakaway kind they use now.
Laughing, he still remembers the unforgiving nature of the maple saplings found on Sir Sam’s property used for gates.
“They hit your shoulder and you go in the other direction,” he said. “If you hit them hard enough and there was a rough spot you’d tear your jacket.”
That challenge along with the handicapped time structure only lasted a few years, but Sir Sam’s has kept the challenge going. At its height, it drew more than 240 racers. Now it averages between 75 and 150 people, starting at four years old. Participants must have a helmet. Snowboarders are welcome.
There are age and skill categories from recreational to elite.
“The families are getting involved so anybody from one year old to 81, 91 goes in it,” he said. “There are categories for each age group so everybody is competing against their own [skill level] of skier.”
See sirsams.com for more information.