Having a December birthday meant his biggest wish each year was for snow. That didn’t change as Ian McLaren grew up and made skiing his life.
McLaren started skiing as a young child at the Kamloops Ski Hill and since then has spent his life fully immersed in skiing, especially racing.
His father was involved with the development of Tod Mountain which meant McLaren was there for opening day in 1961 when the Burfield chairlift first took skiers up the mountain. He has only missed one ski season since then; when he decided to travel the world.
In Grade 12 he broke his leg, missing his chance at making the national ski team, but even that couldn’t keep him off the snow.
McLaren spent time during university skiing and working with ski equipment between his time at school. He tuned Atomic skis for the national team in Whistler, worked as a ski instructor at Tod Mountain, and entered as many races as he could, all experiences that would come in handy later as one of Sun Peaks first entrepreneurs.
During university he wrote a paper titled, “Skiing and My Life as a Skier”. It began, “I feel that skiing has fulfilled or is the closest thing to fulfilling my many dreams and desires.”
His passion and industry ties continued to shape his career, and led to him to purchase the service portion of George’s Sporting Shop in Kamloops. The store evolved to Kamloops Ski Services, then Maxatune. McLaren also opened Consignor Sports before opening McSporties in Kamloops in 1994.
Two years later McLaren opened a second McSporties location and became the first independent retailer in Sun Peaks. The store remains in the original location in the Sun Peaks Lodge today. Racers who knew McLaren quickly made the shop their go-to for gear and service. Soon the store was so popular the decision was made to close the Kamloops location to focus solely on the village shop.
McLaren has been there through it all, from wooden skis to the high-tech equipment of today. He remembered getting his first cell phone, about the size of a brick, and taking it skiing while a sign on the shop door instructed customers to call for service.
Over his years of owning and operating McSporties, McLaren made time for his racing as well. He has attended every Silver Star Over the Hill Downhill race for 35 years, competed in every single Top to Bottoms race until 2015 (winning eight times), took part in countless Nancy Green Corporate Challenges, competed in and won U.S. Alpine Masters Championships, International Masters Championships in Heavenly, Calif., Canadian Masters Championships in Whistler, B.C., sped downhill at the Velocity Challenge, and more.
The basement of his cozy Sun Peaks home has become a gallery to showcase his many achievements. Medals hang from skis with trophies balanced on top, plaques and awards line the walls, photos and season passes from years past are displayed beside Ski Canada magazines featuring McLaren. Signs from one of his past ski stores, Maxatune, hang on the bar.
Over the years he has quietly collected his accolades while watching Sun Peaks grow with new shops, homes, lifts and runs.
“I’ve always loved it up here,” McLaren said. “It’s amazing what has happened.”
McLaren’s customer base is passing through generations, with original clientele now bringing their children and families back to the same shop.
“It’s great to see a gang of them that show up every winter.”
Now, after 20 years at McSporties, McLaren has passed the torch to new owner Matthias Schmid and his family.
Schmid shares a passion for skiing with McLaren and worked for him as a teen, racing during the day and ski tuning in the evenings. He spent time coaching for the Sun Peaks Alpine Club and fine tuning his own technique.
He left the area from 2003 to 2005 but was drawn back to the community and his love of skiing.
“I really love equipment,” Schmid said. “I like putting people in equipment and the joy of skiing that flows through the culture.”
He is proud to take over the legendary store built by McLaren.
“It’s good, it’s passing from one person who made skiing their entire life to another.”
McLaren is happy with the transition to Schmid, and is looking forward to focusing on skiing and travelling with his family.
“I’ve always been in the ski business and it’s been super,” McLaren said. “It’s been a great run for sure, I enjoyed it, and I still do, but I think it’s time to slow down.
“He’s the perfect person. It’s good to watch Matthias and see things run
It seems McLaren penned words he continues to live by as he makes more time to ski.
In the conclusion of his university paper he wrote, “There will be many more unforgettable days of sun, snow, and excitement which make skiing the fabulous sport which it is.”