Ski Jumping at Mount Revelstoke

Backgrounder

In 1925, Nels Nelsen launched himself from one of the ski jump platforms high on the slopes of Mount Revelstoke in Mount Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia. As he left the platform, he leaned forward, towards the tips of his skis. When Nelsen landed he had travelled 240 feet and broken a world record. This was not the first time Nelsen, a Revelstoke resident and Canadian Pacific Railway employee, had set a world record here and he was not the only skier to do so. From 1916 to 1975, Mount Revelstoke was the site of championship ski jumping competitions. A popular spectator sport in early 20th century Canada, these competitions were an integral part of Revelstoke’s vibrant winter festivals and later the Tournament of Champions. The magnificent “Big Hill,” which was later renamed the “Nels Nelsen Hill,” was one of Canada’s earliest permanent jumps and the largest natural ski jump in the country. 

Skiing came to Canada with Scandinavian immigrants in the late 1800s. They introduced and promoted the sport, which included ski running (downhill races), skijoring (in which a skier is pulled, usually by a horse or a dog), ski touring (cross country) and ski jumping. At Revelstoke, where numerous Norwegians settled after working on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, a ski club was formed in the early 1890s. In 1916, this club, together with the newly created Mt. Revelstoke National Park and the town, built the platforms and judging tower on the 600 meter hill that made Revelstoke a venue for international competitions. 

In the first decades of the 20th century, Revelstoke produced many outstanding ski jumpers, including Nels Nelsen, Isabel Coursier, and Bob Lynburne. Nelsen is widely recognized for his world record jump in 1925 of 240 feet (73.2 meters). Coursier, in turn, was famous for her daring jumps and is recognized as having set the world female record in 1922 when she jumped 84 feet (25.6 meters). Bob Lynburne represented Canada at the 1932 Olympics and set a world record when he jumped 287 feet (87.5 meters) in 1933. Dazzling crowds with their thrilling jumps, these skiers set world records in ski jumping and helped enhance the country’s international stature in the sport. 

Mount Revelstoke’s ski jump saw intense competition from 1916 to 1931 and again from 1950-1971, when it hosted the annual Tournament of Champions which attracted many internationally recognized ski jumpers. Although the “Big Hill” hosted its last competition in 1975, the skiing tradition lives on in Revelstoke at other venues. Visitors to Mount Revelstoke National Park can view the jump platforms and place themselves ‘at the edge of the abyss’ just as Nelsen, Coursier, and Lymburne did before they jumped. They can also explore the history of ski jumping at new interpretive displays at the top of the “Big Hill,” as well as at the Revelstoke Museum and Archives.


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