Celebrated Local Athletes

The Winter Olympics in Beijing are underway, with Vernonites Kevin Hill and Emma Lunder having competed in their respective sports (Elena Gaskell was also nominated, but was sadly forced to withdraw after sustaining a knee injury). In addition to Hill, Lunder, and Gaskell, Vernon has been home to several accomplished athletes over the years, including Rob Boyd.

The highlight of Rob’s successful skiing career came on February 25, 1989, when he soared down Whistler Mountain to become the first male Canadian to win a gold medal in a World Cup downhill race in his home country.  

An origin story

Rob started skiing in Vernon when he was only three years old, using a homemade tow rope his father, Sandy Boyd, had built. By his mid-teens, Rob decided to pursue a career in skiing; the fact that his parents owned their own ski hill (the New Winterside Ski Hill and Recreation Area in Tillicum Valley, which operated in the 1970s) was likely a great help in sharpening the young athlete’s skills. He also competed with the Silver Star Ski Club

Rob qualified for the provincial ski team at the age of sixteen and moved to Whistler with his parents. Two years later he made it to the national downhill team. In 1985, he won his first downhill at Val Gardena in Italy’s Dolomites; it is this Italian mountain that saw Rob place in the top-ten six times during his career, including two of three World Cup victories.

Crazy Canucks

Rob was following in the footsteps of “Crazy Canucks” Jim Hunter, Dave Irwin, Dave Murray, Steve Podborski, and Ken Read, a group of Canadian athletes who earned a reputation for impossibly fast downhill skiing and consistently challenged European athletes on the World Cup circuit in the 1970s and ‘80s. Besides the  three World Cup victories, Rob finished on the podium six times and captured 28 top-fifteen results in his twelve years on the national team. He also qualified for six world championships and three Olympics before retiring in 1997.

Rob Boyd was inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

Vernon Vanguards of Winter Sports

If you are interested in learning about other celebrated local athletes, the Museum and Archives of Vernon is hosting a Winter Sports Display featuring vanguards Larry Kwong, Josh Dueck, and Sonja Gaudet. Check is out during the museum’s open hours.  

 

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

Aerial photo of the ski runs at the New Winterside Ski Resort (Tillicum Valley) circa 1972. The raceway can also be seen.

SilverStar’s Little SIbling

It may have only operated for a few years, but Vernon’s Tillicum Valley Ski Hill played host to several professional athletes and even launched the career of a future downhill champion.

In the mid-1960s, Vernonites Molly and Sandy Boyd decided to rig up a tractor-driven tow rope from an old purse seiner so that they could ski down a hillside on their property, since the couple were too busy with five kids and a farm to make the trek up to SilverStar. After a few quiet first seasons that saw mostly family and friends using the hill, it began to garner attention following the addition of a new tow rope, safety gates, groomed slopes, and even a children’s ski school.

Night Skiing at New Winterside, undated.

Moving on up

By 1969, the Boyds and business partner Neil Wolliams had decided that it was time to move their venture five miles up the hill to their Tillicum Valley property where a northern exposure offered better snow conditions. They installed a 2,000 foot T-bar to service two lit runs that could be used for day or night skiing, and named it the New Winterside Ski Hill and Recreation Area.

The resort officially opened in January of 1970. In addition to the two slopes, it included a skating rink, snowmobile trails, and ski-doo rentals. Eventually, it would come to be year-round playground with a hot spring, a raceway, hiking trails, and even an alpine slide. It is here that Rob Boyd, one of Molly and Sandy’s sons and the first male Canadian to win a gold medal in a World Cup downhill race in his home country, began his athletic career.

Sandy Boyd and an unidentified woman looking at the bottom of a cart for the alpine slide at Tillicum in 1979.

From New Winterside to Camp Tillicum

After several seasons of poor snow conditions, the Boyds were forced to sell New Winterside in the early 1980s. They moved to Whistler to support their son’s blossoming skiing career, and New Winterside faced an uncertain future as its assets were sold off. Thankfully, in 1989, the property was purchased by the Girl Guides of Canada, and “Camp Tillicum” is still used by the group today. Molly and Sandy eventually moved back to the Vernon area, and continued to serve as active and energetic community members. 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator