Monday, February 23, 2009

Canada Ski Company

Although it is hard to find visible signs or remnants today, Annapolis Royal has a proud history of manufacturing. Many of our products made sense for a community on the edge of the Bay of Fundy. Salt fish, a staple of many Maritime communities, was produced here. Local son T.S. Whitman even patented a special process for drying fish. We also had an apple dehydrator which, as you could guess, essentially made dried chunks of apple. By soaking them in water, these apple chunks could be re-hydrated for use in pies or other forms of baking. Local sawmills have produced products ranging from hardwood flooring to furniture. Other companies have produced toys, cast iron stoves and even dungarees. When discussing this history with visitors at the O'Dell House Museum, there is always one company which makes visitors pause. That company is the Canada Ski Company.

While Annapolis Royal does sit in the valley between the North and South Mountains, neither of these geological formations are renowned for their current skiing opportunities. In fact, many visitors from Alberta and British Columbia get a good laugh that we refer to these formations as mountains. More than once I have heard the sarcastic question, "Is the mountain somewhere behind that small hill?" It is for this reason that visitors have trouble believing that there was a ski factory here.

To understand why Annapolis Royal was a logical location, you must consider the type of skiing that was done in the mid to late 1930s. While skiing is an ancient activity in Scandinavia, it is a relative newcomer in North America. By the 1930s, the sport had a following in some areas but it was not a common activity. Downhill skiing, as it is understood today, did not evolve until the capacity for mechanical uphill transportation was developed. In the 1930s, if you wanted to ski down a hill, you first needed to ski up that same hill. In fact, the hills surrounding Annapolis Royal would provide ample opportunities for this sort of skiing. For these reasons, the skis, which have similarities to both downhill and cross country skis, could logically be made in an area with modest hills and without a long history of skiing.

Established in 1932, the business operated under both the Canada Ski Company name as well as Canada Ski and Wood Ltd. The wood for the skis came from local birch trees but hickory and ash logs were also shipped to Annapolis Royal from the southern American states by train. The factory managed to stay in business locally until 1940 when they moved to Montreal.

The Canada Ski Company's skis are actually excellent examples of the type of skis made in the mid 1930s. The tip of the ski has a small wooden block. This block was used to attach a clamp the skis when they were not in use. This clamp would ensure that the ski would not lose its curve or camber. This block disappears on skis made in the 1940s. Like earlier skis, the foot is still attached to the ski using a leather strap. When attached, the heel was still free to move around unlike modern downhill skis or modern cross country skis which attach only at the toe.

All for now,
RGS

5 comments:

  1. Very nice article, it's too bad that old factories like this one are vanishing one after another. It is amazing to see the skis from that era. I wish I owed a pair of the old wooden ones just to admire the craftsmanship it took to make such a beautiful thing. It must have been immensely hard to ski on such skis because of the lack of steel edges and the fact that the heel was loose made it even more difficult. I admire the old time skiers for this.

    Take care, Lorne

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  2. I found an ad for Bluenose Skis,
    from Canada Ski Company, Annapolis
    Royal, in the 1928-1929 Canadian Ski
    Annual. So the company is older than 1932.

    Probably the first cross-country skiers in the area were the Thygesen
    family who lived in Roxbury from 1920-1927. There is a
    chapter in Dave Whitman's Roxbury book (p 112-118)
    about the daughter Philippa who, from the age of 9, would ski out and back to Paradise.

    David Dermott, Wolfville

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  3. I was given a pair of skis today that I was told came from my family's ski making company My last name is Lescaudron. Most people in Annapolis know of Grandfather Victor Lescaudron or if you did not know him then you would know my Father Nick Lescaudron. I'd love to know more about my family's history with this ski company it's something I know nothing about, so any info that has to do with my family would be awesome

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  4. Garth,
    Come by the O'Dell House Museum at some point and we will see what information we have for you.

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  5. I plan to make it my summer project. You will see me for sure

    ReplyDelete