Marianne Van Osch (Patrick Davies, 100 Mile Free Press photo)

Marianne Van Osch (Patrick Davies, 100 Mile Free Press photo)

A skier’s dream for South Cariboo

Guest column: Marianne Van Osch

Dick Larsen has been a skier since his childhood on a farm south of Kamloops. His father made his first pair of skis from barrel staves that he steamed and bent at one end. Leather straps were attached to the skis to hold the little boy’s boots in place. From then on winter meant skiing on the hills around the farm.

Larsen moved to Forest Grove in 1958. After a year of working in the bush, he leased part of the service station in Forest Grove to work his trade as a mechanic.

Larsen was busy, but during the winter he longed to ski. Conditions were perfect for skiing with plenty of snow for many months, but the nearest ski hill was in Williams Lake. The ambitious young man decided to build his own.

At the bottom of Jones’ Hill on Canim-Hendrix Road, just outside of Forest Grove, is a small valley known as Hood’s Hollow. The road crosses Bridge Creek and, a little further on, the old Forest Grove Road turns to the right. This is where Larsen built his ski run.

READ MORE: From Gusville to Gateway in Forest Grove

In the summer of 1962, he cut trees from the hillside. He used John Hood’s CAT to haul brush, and Louis Judson’s CAT to level the base of the hill. That first winter, Larsen and his friends skied happily and wildly down the steep hill, so the stories go. However, it was a long trudge back to the top after each run.

Larsen decided to “upgrade his operation,” as he said, with an ingenious power-driven towrope. He bought a 1952 Plymouth for $75, and cut the body off behind the driver’s seat. The right rear wheel would become the rope drive drum. He then ran 1,200 feet of rope to the top of the hill where he had installed idler wheels made from car wheels. A winch at the top anchored the rope.

Larsen said that the 600-foot ski run was a curiosity to some people who would drive by to see what was going on. But for local kids, such as the Hendersons, it was a great place to go. Ski gear and clothing were a far cry from what they are now but everyone made do with what they had. At the end of the first winter, Larsen disassembled his machinery for storage.

By the second year, the ski hill had attracted the attention of skiers in 100 Mile House. An excellent hill for skiing was available right in town. Larsen decided to move his equipment to the town hill.

The new ski hill would be much higher than the one at Hood’s Hollow. A second car, a 1953 Pontiac, and another 600-feet of rope were added to reach the top. Since the towrope was now in two sections, a safety gate was constructed at the junction of the ropes to shunt skiers to the side.

“There was a phenomenal amount of spindles and wheels in that structure,” Larsen said. “A governor was put in to regulate the speed of the wheels.”

Skiing became very popular in the 100 Mile area. A 300-foot run was built at 112 Mile by enthusiasts from Lac La Hache.

In 1970 the Ainsworth Lumber Company enlarged the 100 Mile ski area and put in a T bar. Larsen’s machinery and ropes were sold to a group in Clinton and set up on the hill across the valley from town.

Larsen continued to ski until a few years ago, using the long black skis and boots that were new in 1965. He says the skis are a curiosity to modern skiers but work just fine.

In 2019 he sold his business, Larsen’s Truck Service Ltd. on Exeter Road, which he owned and operated for 45 years,

Looking up at Larsen’s ski hill at Hood’s Hollow today, one can imagine the work that went into clearing the slope and hauling gear to the top. All that remains now is a barely discernible path through the trees and the story of how one young man was determined to bring skiing to this area.

The 100 Mile House ski hill is still clearly visible. As you drive on Highway 97 from the north, toward town, the ski hill is directly ahead. Neat rows of young trees have filled in much of the upper section, and a wide patch of snow covers the base of the hill.

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