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Alta states

The Norwegian connection – Creating a legend in Whistler



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Besides, Johnsen had come up with a unique scheme to boost the profile of the fledgling school. "I told Roy: 'I have a friend back in Norway who will set tracks on this mountain that will blow your mind!' And Roy said: 'Get him over here then.' So that's when I contacted Dag." He laughs. "Of course, Roy had no money. It was Franz who volunteered to pay his flight."

A child of the times, Dag Aabe was barely 20 when he got the call from Canada. Trickster, visionary, pioneer freeskier - call him what you will - Dag Aabe would set Whistler's performance bar extremely high in those early years. No matter who followed after him - Jim McConkey, Dave Murray, Rob Boyd, Eric Pehota, Mike Douglas or Mark Abma - no one has ever quite been able to match Dag's reputation as a wild and crazy mountain player. I know. I know. The world has changed since 1966. But take my word for it - were Dag 20 today, his name would be on everybody's lips. And were it not for Ornulf, one of Whistler's most enduring legends would have never set foot here.

"I first got to know him when I was working for the ski school in Geilo," explains Ornulf. "He was still a teenager back then, but already he'd dedicated his life to becoming a ski stuntman." So much so, he recounts, that people would worry for the young daredevil. "He built a jump in the middle of the hill. His goal was to master Stein Eriksen's famous swan-dive-to-front-flip. And he would go at it from dawn till dusk." Ornulf lets a chuckle escape. "I don't know how many times he landed on his head. It was a lot though."

Dag's sudden arrival at Whistler created even more headaches for the young director. "We had nowhere to stay," he continues. "So one day Roy calls me up and says: 'Eric Beardmore has some spare space at the Cheakamus Inn and he's offered you both free room and board for the winter. You interested?' We were. And that's how we ended up living together all winter."

Pound for pound, says Ornulf, "Dag Aabe is the strongest guy I've ever known." Hyperbole? Maybe. But I doubt it. "Each morning, the guy would do 50 handstand pushups," explains Johnsen. "Now I could do five or 10 in my prime. But 50? I've never seen anybody come even close."

As for his promise to Ferris, Ornulf had nothing to worry about. "Dag did exactly what I said he would," he says. "He set tracks on that mountain that blew people away." Another long pause. Another long stare into the past. "There was so much snow that year. So many opportunities to try new runs. But it was Dag who set the first tracks on the peak." He laughs. "That first time, he wanted me to climb with him to the top. But I wasn't ready yet so he went alone. Didn't bother him at all."