HOLLYBURN LODGE: AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR HERITAGE
Much of the following material comes from the “Background” section of the Request for Proposal (RFP) document prepared by
the Hollyburn Ski Lodge Restoration Project steering committee in 2006.
Before 1960, several commercial ski lodges were built on the North Shore Mountains, including the ski camp at the Nasmyth mill site (1925/1926), Hollyburn Ski Camp/Lodge (1926-1927), Grouse Mountain Chalet (1926-1927), West Lake Lodge (1932-1933), Georgia Ski Lodge - Grouse Mountain Village (circa 1935), Seymour Ski Camp/ Enquist Lodge (1937-1938), Westlake Lodge (1938-1942), and Hi-View Lodge (1950-1951). All these lodges, with the exception of Hollyburn Ski Lodge, were eventually destroyed by fire or dismantled. Hollyburn Ski Lodge is our last significant, tangible link to the North Shore mountains’ rich ski history.
SIGNIFICANCE TO THE COMMUNITY
During the Fall of 1924, Rudolph Jules Verne, Eilif Haxthow, and other Scandinavians renovated buildings at the abandoned Nasmyth mill to create the first commercial ‘ski camp’ on the North Shore mountains. The former mill cookhouse became both a restaurant and a lodge for Vancouver’s first generation of skiers. After two seasons of relatively poor ski conditions, Verne decided to move the ski camp higher up the mountain. He engaged Oscar Pearson and his Swedish cousins, Ole Anderson and Andrew Irving, to dismantle the restaurant/lodge, move salvageable materials to First Lake, and build a ‘new’ ski camp using these materials. To this day, the reconstructed lodge closely resembles the former cookhouse of the old mill. One could argue the lodge building is a unique relic of the once thriving lumber industry in West Vancouver.
By the end of the 1930’s, over 200 private cabins had been built on Hollyburn on land leased from the District of West Vancouver. On Saturday evenings, many of these cabin owners, their guests, and those staying in the ski club cabins would meet inside Hollyburn Ski Lodge for a lively night of dancing. (There were similar cabin communities on Grouse and Seymour but they were torn down long ago.) Today, about 110 cabins remain on Hollyburn, a number of which could be considered heritage buildings. During the winter some cabin owners work for Cypress Mountain. Many use the cross-country ski trails and enjoy meeting for coffee or lunch at Hollyburn Ski Lodge. Often on Saturday evenings there is a special event like a theme dinner or a musical performance. On these occasions ‘day-trippers’ have a chance to mingle with cabin owners. In ways such as these, Hollyburn Ski Lodge has been an anchor (a stabilizing influence) for the past and present cabin community and the community at large.
Few could dispute that Hollyburn Ski Lodge is a venerable old building. It is loved by those whose connection with the lodge goes back several decades and those who walk through its doors for the first time. Parents and grandparents make a point of bringing their children and grandchildren to see the lodge. Since 1994, Hollyburn’s ski pioneers have had a reunion every other year at the lodge. They come to reminisce about their mountain adventures and simpler, sweeter times. For the past seven years, these pioneers and their descendants have been lending their photo albums to the Hollyburn Heritage Society so that precious images can be scanned and shared. The Hollyburn Ski Lodge appears in hundreds of these photos, taken over a span of eighty years. The fact that so many of these photos exist provides compelling evidence that Hollyburn Ski Lodge has been, and continues to be a significant part of our community and our heritage and is an important link between generations.
SUITABILITY AS A 2010 WINTER OLYMPICS LEGACY PROJECT & A WEST VANCOUVER 2012 CENTENARY PROJECT
In 2010, Vancouver/Whistler hosted the Winter Olympic Games. Black Mountain, just two kilometres west of Hollyburn Ski Lodge, was the site of the free-style skiing and snowboarding events. Because of Hollyburn Ski Lodge’s connection with the early development of competitive and recreational skiing on the Pacific Coast, it would have been very appropriate to choose the restoration of the lodge as a 2010 WINTER OLYMPICS LEGACY PROJECT. Because of its decades-long connection with West Vancouver residents, it would be the ideal WEST VANCOUVER 2012 CENTENARY PROJECT.
In March, 1927, the Hollyburn Ski Camp became the official headquarters of the Hollyburn Pacific Ski Club. One month later the Canadian Amateur Ski Association officially recognized HPSC as the first organized ski club with a mountain headquarters on the Pacific Coast of North America. During the 1928 ski season, the Hollyburn Pacific Ski Club held its first cross-country ski races and ski jumping tournaments on the slopes above the Hollyburn Ski Camp. These were the first competitions on the North Shore mountains sanctioned by CASA. During the early 1930’s, cross-country races around First Lake and the Hollyburn Plateau continued to be the only form of timed ski competition. By the end of the decade, downhill and slalom races were being held on the steep slopes leading to Hollyburn Peak.
In 1930, another Hollyburn Mountain club, the Vancouver Ski Club, was formed and began to compete with the Hollyburn Pacific Ski Club and other local clubs. Four years later, the Vancouver Ski Club hosted the first ‘Viski Classic’, a combined downhill/cross-country ski race that began on Hollyburn Peak and finished near the main entrance to Hollyburn Ski Lodge. The ‘Viski Classic’ drew competitors from all the local mountains and beyond. The last ‘Viski Classic’ was held in 1961.
During the 1930’s, ‘40’s, and 50’s many memorable tournaments featuring local, provincial, national, and international ski jumpers representing a variety of clubs were held on the First Lake Jump. Nels Nelsen, Axel Sneis, Finn Fladmark, Fred Finkenhagen, Harald Smejda, Nordal Kaldahl, Tom Mobraaten, Henry Sotvedt, Noel ‘Irish’ Beaumont, Bill “Four Storey” Hansen, Druce Cooke, Les May, Olaf Ulland, Jack Pratt, Ted Hunt, Jack Roocroft, and Halvor Sellesbach all competed on this jump which overlooked Hollyburn Ski Lodge.
During the 1930’s, thousands of Vancouverites climbed the Hollyburn Trail to watch the ski races and jumping tournaments. Many took advantage of the ski lessons that were being offered by the Hollyburn Ski Camp. Others learned to ski by watching ‘experienced’ skiers or joining one of the two clubs on the mountain. During World War II, the Hollyburn Ski Camp drew large numbers of recreational skiers who were seeking a respite from the conflict overseas. After the Hollyburn chairlift was built in 1951, thousands of children from the Lower Mainland participated in the free ski classes at Hi-View and First Lake that were sponsored by the Province newspaper. After a twenty year decline in visits to the mountain in the late 1950’s, 60’s, and early 70’s, Hollyburn Ski Lodge reasserted its position as a major centre of Nordic skiing. Today, Hollyburn Ski Lodge continues to be a welcome rest stop for the thousands of cross-country skiers that visit the mountain each year.