While I started Speed Ski racing in 1984 and raced in Europe in 1986 and 1987, the super fast days in Europe of the late 1980’s and 1990’s eluded me as I was busy working at home and organizing local speed ski events in Sun Peaks Canada.
Through this time I watched from afar as many of my fellow speed skiers broke amazing speed barriers in the sport and some even got to compete at the 1992 Olympics in Les Arcs.
Sadly I was not fast enough at the time to race for Canada in 1992.
While watching from afar during that period there was one name that kept standing out at all the big speed races.This guy was Jeff Hamilton from the USA and man this guy was a speed skiing machine. I remember seeing pictures of him and video of him launching off a huge scaffold ramp off the top of Vars in quest of 150 mph and it was absolutely awe inspiring. Not sure what year it was but he was one of the first speed skier ever over 150mph and I believe the first to crash at that speed as well.
His dedication to the sport of speed skiing and the energy and focus it took to achieve such amazing speeds did not fall short on this aging speed skier watching from Canada. His amazing success at speed skiing and his good nature was often talked about by my very good friends and fellow Canadian speed skiers Kenny Dale and Lark Frolek Dale who competed with Jeff at the 1992 Olympics.
I finally got to meet Jeff at the 2002 FIS World Cup Race he organized and hosted in Snowmass, Colorado. Myself and 6 other Canadians braved the crazy winter drive from Canada to Snowmass to compete .He was an amazing race host and WC race organizer even though the minus 25 race conditions and several unfortunate incidents dampened the event, it did not dampen his spirit and love for speed skiing.
I learned a ton about WC race structure and organizing while at Jeff’s event and would take that knowledge home to Canada in my effort to bring FIS WC Speed Skiing to Canada. From 2002 to 2017 The Sun Peaks Speed Ski Club hosted 13 successful FIS WC speed ski races and some of that success was due to watching Jeff host his event back in 2002.
In 2014 at 48 yrs old and after 30 yrs of speed skiing I finally got my one chance dream to race off the top off the Vars Speed Track and for that week many of my thoughts went back to the early days of Vars Speed Skiing and racers like Jeff Hamilton actually going off a scaffold tower above this insane speed track searching for World Records. Just the thought of standing on a tower looking down the Vars speed track would make most people queasy let alone tucking off it searching for 150 mph. Simply going off the top of Vars without a scaffold tower tests the mental limit of many speed skiers.
Hats off to Jeff Hamilton for being an absolute blazing pioneer in a sport that consumed much of my adult life and for being so inspiring to fellow and future speed skiers even though I don’t think he did not knew the effect his success had on others in the sport.