"What's a loppet?" Thirty years ago, Rossland learns the answer...

Ken Holmes
By Ken Holmes
March 4th, 2014

With reference to the recent Telegraph article A whole loppet fun …” and for the history books, the first Black Jack Loppet was held on Febrary 16th 1985.

It was suggested in 1984 by Roger Chrisfield and Rob Grey that the club should host a loppet. They had been to a loppet in Eastern Canada and came home full of enthusiasm for the event. For a fledgling club with only one ski season under its belt this was quite an ambitious undertaking!

At the first meeting of the 1984 Black Jack executive, jobs were being handed out and eventually the only member of the executive without a job was me, and the only remaining job was to organize a loppet. Everyone looked at me and I said “sure, I’ll do it … but what’s a loppet?” 

After it was explained to me what it was, I decided that the best thing to do was enter one and find out what goes on. I entered a 30 Km loppet at Radium Hot Springs and duly competed. I was astounded when almost everybody completed the course in record-breaking times. It turned out that the course setter had set the course thinking that the odometer on his snowmobile was in miles whereas it was in kilometres so in fact we had only raced 18 k instead of 30k.

Donna Hayes from Vancouver was the Technical Representative for the B.C X-C Ski Association and I learned from her that they had done virtually everything wrong and would not be allowed to hold another loppet. For me this was a great learning experience so I returned to Rossland knowing exactly what not to do in organizing a loppet.

Our date was set for February 16th 1985. It was one of 12 in the B.C. Swix Loppet series. We decided to hold a classic 40km race and then came the first problem. How to get 40km? It had to be multi-loop given the trail system we had at that time.

 It was decided to start across the road from the current practice field and include a loop which went south towards Cordiez‘s house and returned to the parking area. This was Loop 1.

Loop 2 was the Jeldness loop. Loop 3 went out to Gibbards and returned via the Aqueduct trail. Loop 4 went out to the warming hut at Torrsens field and retuned via the Mugwump trail, which was a single-track trail and terrified everyone with its steep downhill. Loop 5 was a second trip out to Gibbards and return via the Aqueduct trail.

We were blessed with perfect weather and perfect snow. There were 62 entrants, which wasn’t bad for a new and unknown club’s first event of this kind.

As Chairman and Chief of Course, I was fortunate to have had a great team. Roger Chrisfield was Chief of Course Setting, Jim Delong took care of all the other course arrangements, my wife Rita was Chief Timekeeper, Carmel O’Flanagan was Treasurer, Ed Crape was Chief of Start/Finish, Alan Baker was Chief of Calculations, Georgia Proctor looked after Publicity and Prizes, Cath Rennison was Chief of Refreshments,. We had a great many enthusiastic helpers.

For computing results we set up a trailer with a generator, computer, printer and a copying machine. Donna Hayes was the Technical Delegate and told us we were the first club in B.C to use an on-site computer for race results. As participants finished the race they were handed an interim results sheet all printed out. Final results sheet were available within minutes of the last competitor finishing the race. People were really impressed! (Remember that this was in the days before laptops and Windows when computers were not particularly user friendly).

Ken MacLean took photographs of every competitor on the first loop and the films were rushed through processing by Dave Snyder at Cameracrafts in Trail. Everyone was handed a personal photograph at the end of the race after they crossed the finishing line.

Medals were presented at a wine and cheese party held in the Uplander Ballroom in the evening after the race. The medals were a unique design made of pottery. Every competitor received a certificate of completion and over $ 1000 worth of prizes were handed out

The winning male was Fred Bushell in a time of 2hrs 25 minutes 11 seconds and the first female was Debbie Daniels in a time of 3hours 22 minutes 28 seconds.

We had prizes for all sorts of accomplishments. The oldest female finisher was Helen Bouchier. The oldest male finisher was Istvan Soos at 71 years of age. Philipe Cordiez took the prize for the most outstanding dress. Rene Mermann received a prize for the first reported broken ski. Mary Baker took the prize for the longest time (5 hours 47 minutes 9 seconds) and Steve Ash the prize for the most spectacular finish. Steve was a great runner but had never before been on cross-country skis and thought because of his fitness he’d have no problem. He was dead last when he saw Mary taking a break with her flask and sandwiches towards the end of the race and this spurred him on to a spectacular second last place (5hours 38 minutes 53 seconds) trying to run on his skis.

Youngest competitors were Shannon Smith and Jake Walton in the Jackrabbit Category

Many other locals took part including Cheryl Langille, Lesley Beatson, Debbie Daniels, Brenda Trenhome, Angie Steinruck, Carmel O’Flanagan, Mary Baker, Yvonne Tremblay, Terry Delong, John Walton, Gerald Klassen, Rick Ewings, Andy Talbot, Kelvin Saldern, Martie Steinruck, Philippe Cordiez, Kim Hay, Gary Bock, Dave Smith, Steve Ash, Roger Chrisfield, Brian O’Flanagen, Peter McIver, Dave Rusnell, Dave Butler, Ben Thor Larsen.

The great success of this race firmly established the reputation of the Black Jack club in the Provincial racing scene and attracted many more racers from outside the area to future loppets and ski races.

Categories: GeneralSports

Other News Stories