Edmonton: A History of Superb Skiing

November 24, 2008 by  
Filed under features

The history of Edmonton, now the capital of Alberta Province, Canada, can be traced back to 1754 when an explorer working for the Hudson’s Bay Company entered the Edmonton area. The Fort Edmonton Trading Post was established on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River in 1795 with the objective of establishing fur trade with the aboriginal population. With its fertile valleys perfect for cultivation, settlers were attracted to Edmonton from far and wide. It was a group of Norwegian expatriates who introduced skiing to this region of their adopted country and went on to establish the Edmonton Ski Club in 1911, making it one of Western Canada’s oldest ski clubs.

The Norwegians were keen to pursue their love of ski jumping and Connors Hill was chosen as a site for the Edmonton Ski Club’s first jump. Temporary scaffolding was erected by 1 January 1913 and that winter saw the start of competitive ski jumping. The jump soon became an Edmonton landmark and the site hosted national jumping events into the 1970s. The jump started on the south side of Connors Hill and extended over Connors Road with skiers landing on the slopes of the area where the present-day Edmonton Ski Club is situated. Photographs of skiers launching off the jump while cars were driving beneath the scaffolding became an image readily associated with Edmonton’s skiing history.Ski jumping and cross country skiing were in full swing during the early 1900s, with downhill skiing only catching on in the 1930s. Downhill skiing may have taken a while to get to Edmonton, but when it did, it created a virtual skiing boom, with several clubs and sites emerging and skiers traveling from all over to join in the winter sport activities. Peter Vajda, a professional Swiss ski instructor, was recruited in 1939 to instruct the growing skiing population and he soon became well known in skiing circles.

World War II brought the skiing boom to an end for a while and only the Edmonton Ski Club continued to operate during that tumultuous time in history. However, once the war was over, skiing was slowly but surely rejuvenated. The Edmonton Ski Club continued to organize jumping events and went on to develop its downhill runs. In the early 1950s efforts to promote skiing with learn-to-ski programs held throughout the city proved successful and the popularity of skiing continued to grow.

Skiing in Edmonton has come a long way since those early beginnings and the region boasts four thriving ski and snowboarding areas – Rabbit Hill, Sunridge Ski Hill, Snow Valley and the Edmonton Ski Club – attracting a combined annual average of more than 500,000 skiers. A state-of-the-art fixed-grip quad lift has been introduced at Snow Valley so that skiers are assured of less time in the queue and more time on the slopes. Visitors to the Edmonton ski areas agree that the long-held tradition of superb skiing continues.