The following was written and submitted by Loni Klettl. Loni has always and still does live in Jasper. She is a former Olympian and champion skier. She is a lover of Jasper, the mountains and all things outdoors. Marmot Basin dearly appreciates that Loni has graciously allowed for us to post this first story (there will be more!) and we hope Loni will write something about herself and her personal experiences in Jasper and at Marmot Basin. We will encourage her to do so!
Thought I'd do something fun...it is Marmot Basin's 50th anniversary and since I have never missed a year, thought I would share some stories and photos from the Klettl ski museum.
Part One: Before Any Lifts
Skiing in Jasper in the early 1950’s was the must do, new activity and everyone wanted to be a part of the scene and fun. Marmot Basin, which had first been spotted by the ski savvy, Swiss pioneer Joe Weiss in the 1930’s, always knew the potential and value of the Marmot Basin. It wasn’t until the early 1950’s that everyone climbed aboard his ski entrepreneur bombardier with enthusiasm and delight.
Parks Canada built the twisty road and cleared the outrun, Bill Ruddy ran the Bombardier snowmobiles, which took skiers, from Portal creek on 93a up a steep, corkscrew road, to the Marten Cabin (which was up on the Basin Run above the Paradise Chalet. They packed skis, lunch and gear into these contraptions which apparently were stinky, noisy, claustrophobic and terribly brutal if one had too many beers the night before.
From the Martin cabin, the true Marmot Basin with its glades, bowls and alpine opened up and all enjoyed sun, powder, comradery and the long, long ski out at the end of the day. There were no ski lifts in those days; skiers used their real sealskin skins to get them to the top and cheap Italian wine in the wineskins.
The Marmot Derby, which was recognized by the Canadian Amateur Association, was held in the spring and participants competed in the giant slalom and downhill. The downhill was no slouch...approximately 5 miles long; it was a marathon of skills, daring, fitness and a small doze of insanity.
It started on top of Marmot Peak, swooped down over Knob Hill, competitors then schussbombed past all spectators cheering and hanging out at the Martin Cabin, past the nowadays Slash and over the sewer lagoons, then tested all resolve and leg strength in the thigh screaming outrun. In years with good snow, they would finish at Portal creek, on 93a. Cyclists know these trails as Scabies, Old Bus Road and Old Man Downhill Trail. Twelve minutes was a good time! Many ski pants were ripped and bindings were pulled right out of the skis on account of the tremendous wipe-outs. The entire run had to be sidestepped and slide slipped before racing. Whoever thinks it's tough to climb the peak, I have no sympathy!
These first skiers at Marmot Basin were fortunate, early ski troopers with attitude, guts and love for the sport that we all have still.