Opinion » Alta States

Alta States

A man for all seasons - Bob Allison sets the bar high for himself



"If you always put limit (sic) on everything you do, physical or anything else (sic). It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."

Bruce Lee

He was always an outstanding athlete. But ski racing was his first love. For the undersized teenager from the backwoods of Golden, making the national ski team in 1976 - and competing alongside Read, Murray and the other genre-bending Crazy Canucks - well, that was more than just a dream come true. It was like being part of another world. Wilder, edgier, more adventurous somehow. Exciting too. So exciting...

So what if he was just 17 and barely 150 pounds soaking wet? So what if the national team had ignored his technical talents and switched him to downhill? So what if his success-obsessed coaches threw him into events unprepared and expected him to manage? He was a Crazy Canuck too.

By 1980, it was all over. Barely 20 and already sporting a shockingly long list of broken body parts, Bobby Allison had had enough. "You know, it's kind of funny now," he says. "But back then, the message was clear. If you hadn't reached a certain pre-determined point by the time you were 20, you were done with the team." But what about long-term development? "Forget about it," he says. "It was all about 'now'."

So how bad was it really? You be the judge. Here's Bob describing a particularly tough week near the end of his career. "We were down in Aspen for a Nor-Am race," he recounts. "The team couldn't afford to send any coaches so we'd gone down alone." A long pause. I can see he's struggling with the story. Almost like he's reliving the horrors of that week again. "Well," he starts, "I crashed on the first day of downhill training and knocked myself out. I guess I was in pretty bad shape - but there was nobody there to assess my condition. So the next day I went up for more training and suffered another bad crash." By race day, Allison was totally out of it. "My head had changed," he explains. "I had absolutely no sense of my skis or even my own body. I don't even remember skiing down. People who watched the race said I almost looked drunk - I was all over the place." He takes a long breath. Sighs. "That's when it got scary."

His ski racing dreams were over. That was clear. But what now? "For the first time in my life, I was frustrated with snow and winter," admits the longtime Whistler sports-entrepreneur. "So I changed gears, applied to the University of Hawaii and devoted myself to big-wave windsurfing." His timing was impeccable. Short boards had just made their entry into the sport, and young men and women were just beginning to venture into Hawaii's fabled surf. "I'd been dabbling in the sport for years," he says. And laughs. "But going to Maui? That was really stepping it up."

Add a comment