Over the years, many local cross-country skiers have garnered national and international attention. A few, like Kaare Engstad, Esther Miller, and Emily Dickson, have even represented Canada at the Olympic Winter Games. Yet in the 1950s, the Omineca Ski Club was also producing superb downhillers.
The pages of the Burns Lake Review were filled with skiing stories in the 1950s. Alford Eakin, Harold Eakin, Doug Rowland, Jean Holmes, and Gordon Rowland were just a few of the skiers representing this area at Canada’s premier downhill events during that period.
According to the Review, at the Dominion Ski Championships held on Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain in March 1952, Alford (in addition to winning the junior cross-country race) placed second in junior slalom and sixth in junior downhill. Doug placed eighth in the junior downhill and fourth in junior slalom. In the women’s event, Jean Holmes also had a couple of top ten finishes in slalom.
Burns Lake hosted the Western Canadian Ski Championships in February of that year the following year, and local skiers again performed well. Alford not only won the junior cross-country race, but also placed first in the junior slalom, and third in junior jumping—and, in doing so, won the junior combine. His performances earned him a trip to the Canadian Ski Championships later that spring, where he again performed well, and led the BC contingent in points.
Today, Burns Lake residents might wonder where local downhill racers honed their skills. In fact, Burns Lake boasted its own ski hill then. The Four-Mile facility, which featured a 1,000-foot towline, was located along Highway 35 near the bottom of Hopper’s Hill not far from the current entrance to the Omineca Ski Club trails. The facility also featured a ski jump.
According to one local resident, the remains of the old towline, along with the engine that powered it, were still on site as recently as 2020.
© 2018 Michael Riis-Christianson and the Lakes District Museum Society