Once October’s lashing gales sunder autumn’s russet blaze,
Winter lurks on Hollyburn, swathing woods in frigid haze.
As snowfall gently cumulates on summits overnight,
This sylvan ridge shelters ‘neath a cloak of muted white.
Inasmuch as summer’s warmth withdrew to southern tiers,
This ghostly quilt will surely rouse clusterings of skiers:
Who bid welcome to a season meant for revellers of cold,
When bucolic forms of cabin life hew to days of old.
“Where beats the heart of Hollyburn?”, wanderers may ask,
Well, for everyone who knows this place, that’s an easy task.
It’s a ridge-top camp for skiers built in 1926;
The focal point of mountain life as chance resolved to fix.
Raised with brawn and bushcraft by men who swung an axe,
Its timbered frame’s a testament to sweat and aching backs.
Once used by old-time loggers, it assumed another guise,
When hauled up to this site by Swedes who waxed ‘neath pale skies.
As a lodge it’s well-beloved, braced for every season;
Since skiers came they justified with elemental reason,
Their seeking out a realm of snow some had never known:
So, when winter fell on Hollyburn, it came into its own.
Past cabins hid in quiet glades by trails aptly signed,
To a rustic lodge where mountain ways are by deeds enshrined.
For, this summit’s core is people, inclined to woodland routes;
The sort of folks who slide on slopes or stump around in boots.
If weathered wood should speak, what tales it might tell
Of characters who named the huts in which they sought to dwell.
Every beam and board contains a clue for those who seek to learn,
About the folks who settled on a mount called Hollyburn.
Their dalliance with timberland wasn’t just a fashion;
To those who hiked and skied, it was an everlasting passion,
‘Cause above the fray of daily life, cares could be allayed,
By summarily withdrawing from the city’s masquerade.
Having hiked around all summer long clambering for sights,
Folks gathered at the lodge to share in wintery delights
Where Popfly’s busy rope-tow hauled devotees on skis,
Inducing breathless souls to air their jubilance and pleas.
The more audacious skiers leapt from shaky wooden towers,
Or, sought out a slalom course midst rocks and alpine bowers.
Sun-bronzed compatriots who could never get enough,
Of racing over inclines draped with white, compacted stuff.
From a coign of vantage past sleeping alpine lakes,
Victors of the snowy heights drove their Nordic stakes:
Breathing in that vital force inspired by the snow,
While lessor mortals vied for space on gentler slopes below.
As masters of their two-edged sport, Popfly wouldn’t do,
Hence climbing to a gilded crown occupied this crew.
Through meadowlands o’er steepening slopes to the mountain’s crest,
Each Langlaufers’ mettle was thus challenged to attest.
Downhill over undulating alabaster dunes,
Sped rival skiers bent on being Hollyburn’s tribunes;
As in their wake lay winding lines of misty scintillation,
Every curving turn and leap, a source of surging exultation.
On through narrow straightaways, dashed each Nordic knight,
Until a teeming ski camp once again appeared in sight.
Whether overcast or clement, ski buffs came to play,
On snow-covered landscapes inviting them to stay
Among friendly cohorts prone to wander, weave and dodge,
‘Til meeting up with neighbours for parlays at the lodge.
Even when a quelling diesel engine slackened off its rope,
In the afterglow of eventide, some wouldn’t give up hope.
For, left behind, a stubborn few who couldn’t get enough,
Retraced their tracks up dusky slopes to prove just who was tough;
‘Til gloom subsumed a dormant lake circumscribed by night,
Prompting lingerers to call it quits for the company of light.
Once homebound crowds t’wards cityscapes, quietly dispersed,
Night owls knew the time had come to satisfy their thirst.
Anyone who casts an eye around this ridge of Hollyburn,
May discover weathered remnants strewn as ashes from an urn.
Across First Lake rest Popfly’s decomposing bones,
Abandoned there by history, a force that ne’er atones.
As circumstance would have it, lodgings here are gone,
Nothing’s left but stumps from which their peeled ribs were sawn.
Even knowing cherished monuments are from this mountain torn,
With a mental quilt of memories, one need not be forlorn.
Yet, to think of vanished structures one no longer gleans,
Is to appreciate with irony what tradition truly means.
A roof festooned with snow; pendent ice on every eave,
What resplendent images signs of winter weave.
To wander ‘round this landmark beneath a moonlit sky,
Is to contemplate a legacy, and with luck infer the why.
Hollyburn’s historic camp imparts a poignant exhortation,
To cabineers of modern times who’ve fixed on preservation.
Those who hold in high regard this sheltered mountain lair,
Are mindful of a way of life, to which they alone are heir.
It’s a milepost of history for mountain pioneers,
An artifact encompassing eventful yesteryears.
Standing still beside First Lake; keeping vigil on the past,
An old, red lodge just weathers on, its destiny yet cast.
A. G. M. F. (2014)
Alex Swanson at Hollyburn Ski Lodge - 1971
Dedicated To The Memory Of Alex Swanson
‘Ever True To The Trails Of Hollyburn’