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Alta States

Stand up and be counted - a tribute to Greg Lee

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That too was Greg...

And of course, there's the Toni Sailer Summer Camp stories. A bi-coastal traveller for much of his last years - with his beloved twin sons living in Whistler, and his life partner residing in Toronto - Sumo nonetheless stored a big part of his heart high up in the Whistler/Blackcomb alpine. And a surprisingly large number of the tributes that found their way to me this week were from coaches and campers who had worked with him on the glacier during one of those many summers.

There was nobody like him, says World Ski and Snowboard Festival founder Doug Perry. And nothing could stop him once he got an idea in his head. "Ahhhh Sumo...," Doug writes, "we coached side by side like brothers for nearly a decade at the Dave Murray Summer Ski Camps. One of my fondest memories of Greg was getting landlocked with him at the Tantalus Lodge because Hwy 99 was getting paved between the Village and Creekside. So Greg decided to load up his ol' Cadillac convertible with a cooler full of ice, tequila and cold ones and proceeded to drive the Great White Shark down the Valley Trail to town. You wouldn't think a vintage Caddy would fit down the Valley Trail, but let me assure you it does. It just grazes the trees. Of course we were intercepted by the Heat, but nothing stuck of course, this was Greg Lee...."

But there was a lot more to Greg, says Perry, than mere crazy capers. "Another thing I will never forget," says Perry, "was his memory. Out of 120 campers bussed in to camp each week. Sumo would know the 90 returning kids by name and city as they stepped off the bus. I'm not kidding. Like Dave Murray, he had a gift for remembering people by name. He made them feel special. He might have lived liked Hunter S. from 10 p.m. till 6 a.m., but he treated those campers like gold.

"And of course," he concludes, "he earned his nickname Sleeping Horse for falling asleep on the (temporary) T-bar on Glacier Bowl..."

Mark 'Skip' Taylor met Greg when he was a 12-year-old wannabe at the Toni Sailer Summer Camp. "By the time I was 16," he recalls, "I was asked to be a salter and gopher in the glacier... and Sumo became my favourite coach to work for because he was so much fun to be around."

The next summer, Taylor was invited to stay for the "Adult Camps" for the first time - but needed to find a place to stay. "So Greg said I could room with him and Floyd Wilkie (a ski-dogging legend)," he remembers. And admits: "They were definitely a couple of twisted guys to have as mentors (it was the first time my lips touched tequila... and getting to my bunk was a very entertaining walk by the open lofted bedrooms)."