Black Diamond native ready to dance on ski hill
Skiing: Jim Park learned to slalom in High Country
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013 12:23 pm
A Black Diamond native won’t have to worry about climbing up the slopes when he skis in a provincial competition this week.
Back in the 1940s, Jim Park started skiing around Hell’s Half Acre near Turner Valley with a pair of homemade skis and just pure human power to get up the hill.
Fast forward 60 years and the 79-year-old Park will be turning the gates on a pair of state-of-the art skis trying to win a gold medal at the Alberta 55-plus Winter Games in slalom skiing at Nakiska on Feb. 14-15.
Park qualified for the Winter Games by winning the silver medal at Nakiska in January — approximately 68 years since he first laced on the boards.
“I started skiing right after the Second World War when I would have been about 11 years old,” Park said. “There was a hill between Black Diamond and Turner Valley (near the cemetery) and Hell’s Half Acre was down below there and it would light up the whole hill at night. We would climb up there and ski down at night... A lot of kids used it. We built some jumps and I look back on those days and think: ‘How the hell did I ever make it?’”
His first pair of skis was homemade from wood taken from barrels. A strap made from inner tubes was used to keep the foot on the ski.
He advanced to a hickory pair of skis with a bear-trap binding that went on his boot.
“If you fell, you were either going to break your leg or break your ski — there was no way that ski was going to come loose,” said Park, who has never broken a bone in his more than 60 years of skiing.
He would later hone his skills on a ski hill north of Turner Valley, which briefly had a lift, before going out of business. (See sidebar).
Park has lived in Calgary for more than 50 years working as a successful real estate agent. However, a quick glance around his downtown apartment and one can see his High Country roots. There are two pictures of his grandson the 2008 Canadian bull riding champion Tyler Thomson, one at the Calgary Stampede and the other getting thrown at the Little Britches rodeo in High River. As well, Amos Garrett is prominent in his selection of CDs, and a photo of his mother Edith Park hangs in his bedroom. Edith was instrumental in bringing the Oilfields Hospital to its present location in Black Diamond.
Although Park well into his eighth decade, make no doubt about it, he still has the same competitive spirit as his grandson.
“I am going for gold,” Park said with a smile as he stands up and demonstrates how he goes through the gates.“When I come down, it feels just like I am dancing,” Park said with a Paul McCartney ballad playing in the background. “The equipment makes it so much easier – you’re not throwing your body about, number one. When I first started skiing, I was on 220 (centimetres) and now I ski on 168. I have a pair of Volkl Tiger Sharks – I have a switch at the back that adjusts the tension of my tips.”
He has every right to smile. He missed the last Winter Games because of cancer, which he licked.
He admitted he has come a long way from the days of using an inner tube to keep his boot on the ski.
Park estimated he skis more than 50 times a year. He loves the powder and skiing with friends from the Calgary Seniors Alpine Ski Club of which he has been a member since 1985. His favourite resorts are Lake Louise and Sun Peaks in Kamloops, where he often takes a run or two with 1968 Olympic gold medallist Nancy Greene Raine.
He’s not about to slow down either. Park will be one of the “old guys” at the Winter Games, skiing in the 75-79 division.
However, Park will be one the kids for his next time at the Games.
“I will be in the over 80 division,” Parks said about competing at the Games in two years time. “I will be one of the young guys.”