View from Whaleback

Graham
Graham Oliver
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Graham Oliver

The 2014 National Cross Country Ski Championships are now neatly tucked away in yonder filing cabinet and the gang at Blow Me Down Ski Trails can sit back and relax.

When I first moved to this snowy province in 1975, the modern era of cross-country skiing was still in its infancy. There were only a handful of ski clubs in the province and some of those clubs, like the Stephenville Ski Club, catered to both alpine and cross country skiers.

In 1978 (circa), Blow Me Down, under the capable direction of Dr. Jamie Graham, hosted the provincial championships on the golf course in Corner Brook. At the time, there were no dedicated cross-country ski trails in the region to serve as a venue. In fact, there were very few cross-country ski trails in the entire province.

In 1981 (circa), Jamie opted for the seclusion of Stagg Lake Provincial Park to once again host the provincial championships. Being a participant in that event, I certainly welcomed the sheltered alternative from the windswept fairways of Blomidon Golf Course. Oh, what humble beginnings from which we come.

I remember volunteering for the 1986 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games that were held in Corner Brook and the cross-country competition was held on the brand new Tim Howard Trail (5 km). The skiers in Corner Brook were elated to have such a wonderful trail, complete with one very obstinate little grooming machine and a cozy ski cabin.

And then came the Junior Nationals and the 1999 Canada Winter Games which brought a whole new network of trails to Blow Me Down along with all the necessary accoutrements to jump into the big leagues. I remember working as an official at the 1999 Games and proudly watching Lee Churchill, Will Fitzgerald, Mark Tierney and Joe Barry standing high on the medal podium after sprinting to a prestigious gold medal finish in the relay.

Throughout the Blow Me Down journey to the top of the national cross-country ski world, Gordon Brewer has consistently held a firm hand on the tiller.

Last week, when I volunteered as an official at the Nationals, I noticed that there were many of the same old BMD gang around making sure that the event ran flawlessly.

Jamie Graham was in the timing room, Keith Payne, Gord Casey, Sheila Seaward, the Brewer and May families were all briskly scurrying around attending to their duties, while Allan and Barb Masters kept a watchful eye over the stadium.

Volunteers were everywhere and their smiles were as wide as the Humber while the sun shone brightly overhead. While standing at trailside, I asked a coach from Ontario if they were enjoying the Nationals. She smiled and said enthusiastically, “This is the best Nationals ever. It’s the first time in three years we’ve skied on real snow at the Nationals. The volunteers are so friendly … and when they sang the Ode to Newfoundland at the opening, tears came to my eyes. I never realized that you folks had your own anthem.”

A big congratulations to the gang at Blow Me Down for hosting, yet another, successful national event. You certainly came a long way since hosting the provincials on the windswept fairways of the Blomidon Golf Course.

View from the Whaleback is a weekly column that was previously published in The Georgian between January and April since 1981. It will now be appearing in The Western Star.

Organizations: Junior Nationals, Stephenville Ski Club, Humber

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, Stagg Lake Provincial Park Canada Ontario Western Star

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  • happy
    April 01, 2014 - 07:48

    Wonderful! Although I am non-skier, I know many of the people involved in the event and have been waiting for responses to it. This one was even better than I had hoped for!