Mount Revelstoke ski jumping earns national historic recognition

Catherine McKenna, the federal minister responsible for Parks Canada, has announced that ski jumping on Mount Revelstoke is being designated a "nationanally significant" place.

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Revelstoke newcomer Will Milar has a go at the new metal ski jump sculpture installed in the fall on Mount Revelstoke National Park at the site of the historic ski jump. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

The federal minister responsible for Parks Canada has announced that ski jumping on Mount Revelstoke is being designated a “nationanlly significant” place.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, made the announcement in celebration of Heritage Day on, when 38 new persons, places and events were announced.

“As we celebrate National Heritage Day I am very proud to recognize the people, places and events that shaped Canada,” McKenna said in a statement. “They tell the stories of who we are as a people, including our history, cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples. I encourage all Canadians to take this opportunity to learn more about our rich and diverse history.”

Another view of the new sculpture commemorating ski jumping in Mount Revelstoke National Park. It has yet to be officially dedicated. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photoe
Another view of the new sculpture commemorating ski jumping in Mount Revelstoke National Park. It has yet to be officially dedicated. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photoe

An environment ministry statement said the new designations reflect the rich and varied history of our nation in areas related to immigration, Indigenous people, war and peace, science and medicine, the arts and industry, and civic life. The commemoration process is largely driven by public nominations and designations are made on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. To date, more than 2,000 designations have been made.

Ski jumping in Mount Revelstoke National Park

The environment ministry commemorated the announcement with the following description of ski jumping in the park:

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.

Nels Nelsen is Revelstoke’s ski hero. He was a world champion ski-jumper in the 1920s, and inventer of vorlage, or the forward lean. Nelson put Revelstoke on the map as a ski-jumping destination. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives
Nels Nelsen is Revelstoke’s ski hero. He was a world champion ski-jumper in the 1920s, and inventer of vorlage, or the forward lean. Nelson put Revelstoke on the map as a ski-jumping destination. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives

From 1915 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.

Nels Nelsen circa 1925. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives
Nels Nelsen circa 1925. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives

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-metre hill that made Revelstoke a venue for international competitions.

Born in Revelstoke – first women’s world champion in ski-jumping in the 1920s. She also participated in ski-joring, skiing behind a horse. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives
Born in Revelstoke – first women’s world champion in ski-jumping in the 1920s. She also participated in ski-joring, skiing behind a horse. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives

In the mountainous west, skiing was a healthy winter recreational activity and a practical mode of travel in harsh, sparsely populated regions. From the 1890s onward, community-based winter festivals and tournaments such as those held at Banff, Revelstoke, Rossland, Trail, and elsewhere in the west featured skiing competitions. Ski jumping proved immensely popular with spectators and large crowds flocked to the big competitions. In the first decades of the 20th century, Revelstoke produced many outstanding ski jumpers, including Nels Nelsen, Isabel Coursier and Bob Lymburne. Nelsen is widely recognized for his world record jump in 1925 of 240 feet (73.2 metres). 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 metres). Bob Lymburne represented Canada at the 1932 Olympics and set a world record when he jumped 287 feet (87.5 metres) in 1933. Dazzling crowds with their thrilling jumps, these skiers set Canada’s only world records in ski jumping in the 20th century and helped enhance the country’s international stature in the sport.

Younger brother of Nels Nelsen, he was known for his perfect form. He was the world boy champion in the 1920s, and taught skiing in Lucerne, Quebec. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives
Younger brother of Nels Nelsen, he was known for his perfect form. He was the world boy champion in the 1920s, and taught skiing in Lucerne, Quebec. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives

Mount Revelstoke’s ski jump saw intense competition from 1915 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 remains of the ski platforms placing themselves “at the edge of the abyss” just as Nelsen, Coursier and Lymburne did before they jumped. They can also explore history of skiing at interpretive displays at the foot of the “Big Hill” and at the Revelstoke Museum and Archives.

On Canada’s National Ski Team in the 1960s – participated in the 1964 and 1968 winter Olympics as a ski-jumper. Made an unofficial jump of 325 feet on Mount Revelstoke. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives
On Canada’s National Ski Team in the 1960s – participated in the 1964 and 1968 winter Olympics as a ski-jumper. Made an unofficial jump of 325 feet on Mount Revelstoke. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives

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