223’s and racing on skis, Tod Mountain in the ‘80s

Ah, the ‘80s. Fashions were day glow, skis were long, and in the Interior of B.C., Tod Mountain Ski Resort was trying to make a name for itself.

Ah, the ‘80s. Fashions were day glow, skis were long, and in the Interior of B.C., Tod Mountain Ski Resort was trying to make a name for itself.

“You had to come up with all kinds of stuff,” says Steve White, Tod Mountain’s vice-president of marketing throughout the ‘80s. “You had limited budget at best. Half the time I never knew if I had a budget!”

White and Bill Rublee, the director of ski school throughout much of the ‘80s, created a roster of events to entice skiers to Tod. Back in the days when liability insurance was the last thing on anyone’s mind, recreational ski races, like the Penguin Challenge, were testosterone fuelled events.

“We’d be racing in penguin suits,” remembers Rublee. “We’d race GS and triple slalom in the penguin suits in what we affectionately called beak to beak to beak racing.”

Rublee recalls the race was noted for its grand finish.

“We’d start up in the morning with the Penguin Death Leap, which was a top to bottom race of the Burfield and they’d have to end the race sliding on their bellies to the finish line.”

The ‘80s also brought a free learn to ski program to the mountain.

“I got everyone I could get my hands on to teach the masses that were coming up for these learn to ski programs. It was quite fun,” recalls Rublee.

One of those recruited to teach was Candace White.

“It was phenomenal,” she recalls. “What’s Bento’s now was the Shuswap Day Lodge and it was always full of people. The whole ski school was working and the mountain was busy and all these people learned to ski. Lots of them are still pass holders to this day.”

Upping the exposure of the resort, Rublee and Steve White hosted the Snow Show a half hour televised ski report broadcast on Friday nights.

“For a while we’d have live Snow Show call-ins,” says Rublee. “We had to stop doing that after a while because we’d have people that were either inebriated or stoned phone in and we’d have to sensor those calls!”

Back in the ‘80s Crazy Canuck Steve Podborski was tearing up mountains, winning Olympic medals, and World Cup titles. Along the way he, and other daredevil racers, inspired a group of local guys­ who started speed skiing in the Canadian Cooler Dash Series throughout Alberta and B.C.

“We followed the speed skiing tour and went to every race at Sunshine, Marmot, Norquay, Big White and Whistler,” says Kenny Dale, a Tod Mountain skier who went on to found the Velocity Challenge, now a FIS speed skiing event hosted at Sun Peaks annually that’s characterized by breakneck speeds, red rubber suits, and 240 centimetre long skis.

The speed skiers’ rubber suits rival the neon and lycra fashion of the ‘80s. Anyone looking back at photographs from that era will surely chuckle at the extra long skis and neon bright, one piece ski suits that were the style of the day.

“In the old days, no one skied under 200s that I knew of,” recalls local resident Don Gagnon, who, back in the day skied on 210 and 223 cm skis. “It didn’t matter if we were skiing trees or powder, steep or flat runs, we were on the biggest skis we could possibly find.”

The ‘80s was a break out time to get out and play at Tod Mountain with penguin racing locals, new skiers wanting to get into the loop and big name racers checking out the place.

“It was more fun than you should ever have to have,” concludes Rublee, fondly recalling that, “Going to work, wasn’t work. (We) were all there for the lifestyle; money meant nothing, because we didn’t have any!”

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