Posts Tagged ‘1968’

With the assistance from postcards written on December 14 & 20, 1992.

Photo: Thierry Astruc
December 14th Postcard written to my mother in Canada

I’ve rarely had time to ski prior to Christmas due to midterm exams, correcting or other engagements. Always had no time with Killington’s October stealth openings then would generally manage one or two outings before the end of semester crunch in December.

Fall 1992 was slightly different; I had absolutely no time to go skiing. I had to meet a self-imposed deadline and finish almost 4 years of graduate studies. Thesis was completed on November 30, numerous copies made for the faculty, jury and directors and off to Mirabel Airport for the Montreal-London-Lyon flights. Graduate work was over until the jury would meet, which gave me probably 2-3 months of time off with the Christmas Holidays.

Overnight flight and unable to sleep after being awake for over 55 hours and barely slept in the last month in order to compete the thesis. Blame it on last-minute major “suggestions” by one of my directors and formatting changes from one computer to the next (home computer was new to me, I had just bought a Mac Classic with no printer in the last few months and didn’t know that formatting changed with the type of printer used). A five and a half hour wait at Heathrow Airport in London until my 90 minutes flight to Lyon, France. I was going to visit my girlfriend and her family outside Lyon. This wasn’t my first visit to France and it wasn’t my first time in the Alps either. The New Year 1991 trip was for less than 2 weeks with the University ski team and was only about skiing, although some people might think that skiing in gates isn’t skiing. This trip was 2 months and it wasn’t focused on skiing, but I brought my ski gear anyway.

The first week was spent recuperating and sleeping from the high stress of the last few months. We also visited the surrounding villages, Lyon, the Beaujolais and Burgundy regions. It took us 18 days to finally make it to the Alps on December 18.

Flying into London with St. Paul Cathedral below

December in Lyon

Cremieu, Isère : a few minutes from my in-laws


Brançion, Burgundy

This was the latest start to my ski season in memory, and first time I hadn’t skied in November since I’ve been keeping track back in 1981. It had been just above 6 months since my last day at Killington on June 11th.

In Lyon I bought the Guide Curien de la Neige, a French magazine that listed France 383 ski areas. Caroline had mentioned Chamrousse was a real option as it was only 135km and 2 hours away; she had skied there a few times as a teen. The base is located at 1600 metres and sits on the mountains just above Grenoble, the site of the 1968 Winter Olympics. Chamrousse was host to the Games alpine skiing events. Croix de Chamrousse is the summit located at 2255m.

Google Maps: The 135km day drive from the in-laws to the Olympic Mountain: Chamrousse

So the skiing was about the same distance as Tremblant from Montreal with approximately the same vertical, but much less expensive. Lift tickets were sold 80 FF ($20 CDN), although it was low season prior to this coming weekend. Today was Friday, we were hoping to come on Wednesday, but we wanted Winter tires installed on the mother-in-law’s Peugeot first. I found this reproduction of an old 50 year-old postcard; Chamrousse was arguably one of the first locations where skiing was practiced in France in the late 1800s.

Edition R. Girard, Photo : Centrale Grenoble
December 20th Postcard written to my mother in Canada

Skimap.org: Chamrousse Ski Map 2006
Source: Skimap.org: Chamrousse Ski Map 2005-06

We drove up to Roche Béranger base at 1750 metres. The place was quiet and it was a low-tide Friday, one week away from Christmas. Chamrousse’s elevation is lower than other Isère Department ski areas like Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes. We started skiing around Roche Béranger and slowly towards the left on the trails network and base area of Le Recoin at 1650m. The skiing terrain was fine near Roche Béranger; Arolles and Gaboureaux were some of the steeper open stuff which lead to the other base. That base was bigger and a tram reached the highest point. Runs down to Lac Robert or lower down towards 1400m weren’t open.

Caroline had started skiing when she was 6, and she spent a few years of her childhood in France’s Southern Alps; her technique was a bunch of mixed elements, some probably dating back to the 1960s French technique when Killy and Canadian Tiger Greene won medals at Chamrousse. She had skied only twice during her year in Canada, and once with me at Tremblant in late April. I gave her a few pointers, and continued to deprogram her from bad habits, and teach her from scratch. She was much better than an ex-girlfriend which had never skied before meeting me and that was in 1992. Now she is so a much better skier.

We skied Les Crêtes and the excellent and fun Mens’ Olympics Downhill, which was steep at the top and twisted on the mountain face. I was jealous of people living in Grenoble with this ski area sitting above them.

It would seem that snow is rare, even in the mountains. The lack of artificial snow and no base means rocks. It was super warm on that day, and the past week with +12c. The snow was good with some freshies, however the lack of base and a few rocks isn’t good for your ski bases: now my skis needed a place to get fixed.

Crossing over onto Le Recoin : Croix de Chamrousse and Tram to the summit

Skiing on the Roche Béranger side with Tram in the distance

Le Recoin below and Grenoble further below

Grenoble in the valley


Looking at the summit from Le Recoin base

December days are short

MadPat’s Gallery:
18 décembre 1992 : Chamrousse

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One of the ideas behind starting Ski Mad World was to tell the story of skiing, of the sport in general and my particular relationship with the sport. Gathering my hundreds of trip reports of my ski outings along with my other tidbits scattered around the internet.

I also wanted to relive the trips that never made it online, either the recent ones or those beautiful trips from many years ago, recreating the atmosphere of the times. Some of those nostalgia trips would involved trips from my youth.

I found out that my favorite ski mag had a great idea, The Ski Journal had a “first day ever essay contest”. The submissions are to be judged by Warren Miller himself. A great topic that falls right where I want to go with this nostalgia series, however I wasn’t expecting to go that far in the past.

So here goes…the first in the Ski Mad World’s nostalgia series:


Beaver Lake, circa 1968

I don’t clearly recall my first time on skis. I’m not even sure how old I was. As far as I can remember, skiing has always been part of my life. It’s like asking someone if they remember their first steps. Probably common in avid skiers’ kids.


My mother grew up in a large French Canadian family in the Laurentians within 20 miles from Gray Rocks Inn and Mont Tremblant Lodge, I was told that my grandfather groomed the runs at Tremblant with snowshoes in the 40s. My mom really got into skiing once she moved out and left for Montreal in 1953. I recall her telling stories about taking the ski trains as a young adult.

My father, of Irish descent, grew up in Montreal and as a kid skied on Mount Royal where he would take the tramway to get to the mountain and ski back down the street at the end of the day. Skiing would become a major part of his life, as he would drop everything to move to the hills as soon as snow would fall. He was an instructor for close to 15 years under the skier like Ernie McCulloch, Réal Charette and Bob Richardson. Skiing in the Laurentians at places like Gray Rocks, Villa Bellevue and Tremblant, eventually ending a at new ski area in the Eastern Townships.

It’s there, at Glen Mountain, where my parents would met. A few years later I was born and I would ski a few more years later.

Skiing recollection

My earliest recollection of skiing was at Beaver Lake at Mount Royal Park in Montreal. Judging from the pictures in the Family Album, I would have just under 3 year young. so it would have been the Winter of ‘68. This might not have been my first time, but it is definitely my earliest memory of it.

Stoked!!! On the ice rink outside the Beaver Lake Chalet

At that time we lived on Fort Street in downtown Montreal and only a couple blocks of the old famed Montreal Forum. Montreal has a rich history of skiing on it’s mountain an surrounding slopes within the island. At one point in time, there was even a ski jump on Côte-des-Neiges, but the jump was long gone when I was born as urbanization had spread since that time.

There were still a few ski hills with tows or t-bars within the city limits in the late sixties. Places like Beaver Lake, Cabrini Park, the park where the Stadium would be build for the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976, all of these were City of Montreal Parks which had lifts. There was also the more serious skiing at l’Université de Montréal ski slope on the other side of Mount Royal.

I don’t remember if my father was there at that time or how we got to the hill. I just know that my mother didn’t have a car back then and we often took the city bus to get around. Mount Royal Park was only one bus ride away up la Côte-des-Neiges (Hill of Snow – in fact the meaning of Côte here would be more like Coast, but I prefer Hill of Snow for this text). I recall going to Mount Royal throughout the seasons.

Slope and lift tower in the Summer.

Beaver Lake and the part of the slope in the Fall.

Beaver Lake was one of the most popular places in Mount Royal Park in the Winter time. There was skating and the open slope on the next to the lake was divided between the tobogganing and the skiers. There was hill was serviced by a t-bar.

There was one small slope with a T-bar on the southern edge of the Beaver Lake. Fifty-six vertical feet with one large slope. I knew that hill, as we tobogganed it a few times. I recall that there was always a good number of people either sliding or skiing. On this day, it was going to be different, I was going to ski.

From the chalet I needed to cross the snow-covered pond with my skis to reach the T-bar. The nature of the terrain was of course pretty limited, but ideal for beginners from the city. I vaguely remember going up the T-bar. The only thing I really remember was that my mom was holding me as I was staring down mostly at my skis between her skis and we were sliding further away from the T-bar, not far from the fence and toboggan side of the hill. My skis were red and her skis looked like some old Rossignol Stratos and she had laced ski boots, or were those mine? Somehow I knew this moment was important; I felt like a grown up, practicing a sport that my parents loved. Maybe I had a feeling on how much skiing would mean to my life.

Happy Pat on skis.

Pat with Eric bestfriend and future skiing buddy. This picture looks like it was taken in the Spring. There was a fourth picture with me on skis next to Eric, but I remember giving it to him when we were kids. You'll see Eric again in the seventies.


My ski day probably didn’t last that long, maybe a few runs, that is all I remember and my parents are no longer here. I remember bringing my oldest daughter here when she was 3, driving across the mountain from my favorite ski shop with her ski equipment while I was in Montreal for the Holidays. My mom had told me the T-bar was still active. So once at the parking lot, I decided to put my skis and my daughter’s skis and we skied down some really rough snow. When we got to where the lift was…nothing. I had to carry my daughter in my arms while climbing uphill. I mentioned this today, because when I asked my daughter if she remember her first day, she told me about this experience. It wasn’t her first day, but what she thought was her first day.

My mom loved the mountain; she loved walking and skiing here, especially cross-country skiing. She wanted it to be her final resting place. Last Spring we placed her ashes one mile away from that defunct T-bar and Beaver Lake. Although I’ve skied over forty years, over a thousand times at a hundred areas across the East, the West, the Alps and the Andes, I’ll always cherish these memories.

Dedicated to my mom who would have turned 75 today. Merci Maman.


Mount Royal and part of downtown Montreal in 2010. This aerial view includes Beaver Lake and the slope, Fort Street and my mom's final resting place. source: Bing

Beaver Lake and the slope in 2010. source: Bing


After a question from Rfarren on FirstTracksonline, I replied with a series of pictures and links about Beaver Lake and Mont Royal Park in general.

You can see my FTO reply here.

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