The Ottawa Ski Club (OSC) Newsletter Archive
Foreword: The Ottawa Ski Club Newsletter Archive was a project initiated by cross-country ski enthusiast Charles Hodgson as a personal interest. Charles has provided the GVHS with his files to ensure there is a permanent repository for these glimpses of the skiing community from the 1920s on. You can contact Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website on Gatineau Park at guidegatineau.ca.
(Click images to enlarge)
The Ottawa Ski Club was formed in 1910 and went bankrupt in 1989. Between those dates Gatineau Park and Camp Fortune came into being. The OSC was intimately involved, as these documents show.
Contents of This Page
- Searching and Browsing the Newsletters
- The Flow of the Newsletters
- You Can Help
- Charles Hodgson's version of The History of the Ottawa Ski Club
Searching and Browsing the Newsletters
The newsletters are posted as PDFs. The list of dates link to the PDFs individually, so you can browse each Newsletter individually.
The OSC was formed in 1910 but at first was such a small group that they required no newsletters. World War I ran from 1914 to 1918 and also put a damper on membership and this generation of documentation. That's not to say there were no documents; I just haven't been able to get my hands on any.
The earliest document I have here is circa January 1, 1921 and speaks about a "hike" (though it would be on skis) to inaugurate a lodge at Pink Lake. A lodge had also just been purchased at Camp Fortune. These first newsletters are simple typed sheets.
You Can Help
The collection of old OSC newsletters has been assembled from various sources. In particular Charles Hodgons thanks the Canadian Ski Museum and the City of Ottawa Archives. Although this digital collection represents a more complete set than any known to be existing in original paper, it still has gaps. If you know of OSC newsletters not included here, please contact Charles Hodgson and he'll arrange to scan them.
Charles Hodgson's version of The History of the Ottawa Ski Club
In 1914 the jumping crazies were joined by a contingent of what were then known as ski-runners. Today we'd call them classic style cross-country skiers. The sport was new enough that it was spelled ski-ing.
Ski-runners were not content to splatter themselves onto the ice of the Ottawa River, they wanted instead to range far and wide. There are references to the wilds of Sandy Hill and the East Templeton Hills (the hills east of the Gatineau River). Importantly though there were the Gatineau Hills.
The sport was so new that they hadn't yet figured out that using two poles instead of one might be a good idea; this was figured out by roughly 1920. You can see in the the logo at the head of this page the use of a single pole. There are also references to having to climb dozens of fences while out ski-running. This is a clue to the fact that much of the ski-ing was over open farm fields. This would have made it easier to ski with a 9 foot ski-pole than trying to schuss through the trees.
The ski-runners had already established a network of trails and places to stay and this continued to grow as skiing continued to evolve.With the installation of ski tows skiing broke into three branches (jumping, cross-country, and alpine).
During the 1920s and 1930s the Ottawa Ski Club brought thousands of people into the winter woods where almost none had gone before.
Created in 1934 the Federal Woodlands Preservation League is generally (and properly) credited with doing the dog-work required to convince the bureaucracy to create Gatineau Park. However, as can be seen in these newsletters the Ottawa Ski Club had begun advocating for forest protection back in 1927. In 1933 they created the Ottawa Ski Club Forest Preservation Society whose efforts were soon subsumed by the FWPS.
The OSC continued skiing in all three of its styles after Gatineau Park was established and for years required skiers of all types to try the other two in their ski lessons or competitions. The Ski-Meister event, combining the styles, survived on after OSC went bankrupt. This is the reason that the network of cross country ski trails in Gatineau Park is thickest surrounding a downhill ski centre. Believe it or not, the trail network used to be much more dense in the area.
Eventually the disciplines of skiing grew apart and the jumping towers were taken down. More and more focus in the latter newsletters is given to alpine skiing until the newsletters peter out altogether. Interest in cross-country skiing saw a resurgence in the 1970s but there was already enough separation between adherents that many xc-skiers didn't see the need to join OSC and the gap widened.
During this evolution the youth volunteer crew evolved too. Originally it was the Night Riders of the Canyon who cleared trails in the fall and kept them skiable during the season. As alpine skiing emerged the Night Riders "groomed" the hills manually (how does one put that exactly? It wasn't by hand, it was by foot. They themselves called it cross-checking,* in reference to the pattern their skis made in the snow as they tramped it down – I've heard it called herringbone). This desertion of the trails by the Night Riders necessitated the creation of the Trail Riders, a second group.
Alas in the late 1980s the OSC ran into financial difficulties and folded. The NCC took over the land and continued operation of Camp Fortune through agreements with private operators. Dedicated Trail Riders tried to continue their labours of love on the trails but the pattern seen back when the Ottawa Improvement Commission outlawed the jump at Rockcliffe Park seemed to persist and the Riders and NCC couldn't see eye to eye.
* Michael MacConaill wrote to say "Cross-checking was stamping down snow by a modified side-step, moving skis parallel and overlapping the traces. This was the standard way of compacting jump outruns, and was also used by the Trail Riders on the outrun of the steeper hills. The main descent could be tracked, but since skiers tended to wobble on a rising outrun, a broad tamped trail was so created."