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Dave Murray’ s legend lives on in Whistler

Crazy Canucks remembered in film festival movie tonight

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About 30 years ago on the slopes in Val d’Isere, high in the French Alps, two young Canadians, Dave Murray and Terry "Toulouse" Spence were enjoying a day’s skiing.

Murray was on the Canadian national ski team and a growing celebrity as one of a group of four young Canadians dubbed the Crazy Canucks. Toulouse was the team’s masseuse, the guy who was there at the starting gates of every race, giving the guys an added boost of confidence and updating them on the conditions of the course before they set off.

That day in Val d’Isere, Murray shared a little piece of information with Toulouse that he has always remembered. He told him that he must always make the ski work for him rather than the other way around. Though it happened 30 years ago, and though Murray has been dead for almost 15 years, his advice in Val d’Isere stuck.

"I’m just one person out of thousands that Dave Murray has influenced," said Spence, who credits Murray with improving his skiing as well as encouraging him to earn his coaching levels.

"I think it was his enthusiasm for skiing that affected everyone else."

At the opening gala of the Whistler Film Festival tonight, Murray and his fellow team members will be remembered in a film called the Crazy Canucks – a look back at the hey-day of Canadian ski racing.

But Dave Murray’s legend lives on in Whistler not so much for his feats on the race courses across the world but more so for his legacy after he retired as a Crazy Canuck and focused on sharing his vast ski knowledge.

"He was hugely important to Whistler Mountain and to our whole ski racing heritage here," said Peter (YP) Young, the manager of events and terrain parks for Whistler-Blackcomb and one of Murray’s friends.

Murray retired from the team in 1982 and settled in Whistler with his wife Stephanie Sloan, a fellow Canadian competitive skier.

Soon after retiring Murray forged a partnership with Whistler Mountain to run summer ski camps, which focused on training kids in the off season. They became known as the Atomic Dave Murray Ski Camps. The summer camps trained kids between 10 and 18 years old and they still run today.

Next Murray focused on teaching adults.

He started Masters ski racing on Whistler Mountain.

"That started off with just wanting to share going fast," said Sloan. "His thing was, the best way to learn how to ski better is by going through gates."

Those camps got a lot of sponsorship and participation and were happening at ski areas across the country. The idea was to combine fast skiing and racing techniques with a fun, social element.

"It’s really made lifelong skiers out of a lot of people," said Young.

Murray was also instrumental in getting the annual Peak to Valley race established in Whistler.

"We used to ski Peak to Valley all the time, that was our favourite thing, was to go non-stop, top to bottom," said Sloan.

The legend lives on also in Dave and Stephanie’s teenage daughter Julia, who has been skiing in Whistler since she was two and has carried on the family tradition of racing. Julia has qualified for the NorAm race in Lake Louise this month on the World Cup downhill course. She is expected to be one of the youngest competitors there, skiing two super Gs and two downhills.

"It’s pretty exciting alright," said Sloan, who will be cheering her on from the sidelines.

Dave Murray never won a World Cup downhill race, though he came very close, but he was an integral part of a special time in ski racing history when the Crazy Canucks were taking the racing world by storm.

On April 13, 1991, just months after Murray passed away from cancer at the age of 37, a ski run on Whistler was renamed the Dave Murray Downhill. That ski run will take its place in history during the 2010 Olympics as the site of the men’s downhill course. And Murray’s memory will undoubtedly live on.

SIDEBAR:

The Crazy Canucks will kick off the Whistler Film Festival tonight (Thursday, Dec. 2) at the Whistler Conference Centre.

A festive chalet-style party with live entertainment will follow the presentation.

The festival will showcase 93 films over four days. For more information call the festival hotline at 604-935-8035 or log on to www.whistlerfilmfestival.com.

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