Montreal

At 84, Canada's oldest ski instructor ready for winter

Ross Cole recently received an award for his contribution to the Laurentians' ski industry. At 84 years old, he is about to strap in for his 60th season as a ski instructor.

Quebec's Ross Cole sharing his passion for skiing for 60th season

Ross Cole has always stuck to skiing, although he says snowboarding attracted a new generation to the slopes. (Submitted by Ross Cole)

When Ross Cole first clipped into a pair of skis at the age of five, they were radically different from the ones he is wearing eight decades later

"The ski was basically a piece of wood, without any edges. Just a solid piece of wood, and I was wearing breaches, that was our attire."

At 84 years old, he is now the oldest active ski instructor in Canada.

Cole is also about to begin his 60th season teaching people how to master the pizza pie.

Arthur de Pierre, the director of the Sommet Morin Heights Ski School in the Laurentians, says Cole is one of the most popular ski instructors on the mountain.

"Ross is the consummate professional with a touch of class, and even at 84 he can out-ski many of the younger instructors," said de Pierre.

Ross Cole, in 1963 at the Ayers Ski Center (now known as Carling Lake Golf Club) outside of Lachute. (Submitted by Ross Cole)
In October, the ski resort presented Cole with an award for his contribution to the ski industry in the region, the "Prix des Bâtisseurs."

De Pierre says Cole has worked in every field related to the sport, as a ski patroller, instructor, ski school director, tour operator and ski boutique owner.

"When they asked me who should win this award he was the first and only name that came to mind, because he has done so much for the industry and our snow school," said de Pierre.

Train ride to the slopes

Cole says his passion for skiing started when he was a boy, "on the Mountain" in Montreal, referring to Mount Royal.

He later discovered the Laurentians when he joined his university's ski team.

"We'd hop in on a train in Central Station in Montreal, and a steam engine would take us up to Saint-Sauveur," Cole said.

We'd hop in on a train in Central Station in Montreal, and a steam engine would take us up to  Saint-Sauveur .- Ross Cole

Cole has seen the trends on the mountains come and go. But he says he underestimated the impact snowboarding would have.

"The first time I saw a snowboard was in France, in Courchevel, at the top of the French Alps, and I said 'Ah this will never catch on.' Well that a mistake. It sure has."

He said he's tried snowboarding but it's not for him. He does however appreciate how it's been a big promoter of winter sports.

Safer sport than in the 50s

Cole says downhill skiing is more accessible than people think.

"There should be no limit. I've taught people who have never been on skis before, people who are over 70 years old."

Cole says the sport has grown considerably safer, thanks to the progress in equipment manufacturing.

"When I first started, skis were 220 centimetres long. The ones I have today are 170 centimetres, with edges. So just that transition has surely made learning to ski much simpler," said Cole.

Ross Cole receiving the Prix des Bâtisseurs, from Les Sommets ski resorts. Left to right: Arthur dePierre, director of the Morin Heights ski school), Suzanne Bergeron, Georges Dufour and Ross Cole.
Cole says at Morin Heights, the ski patrol only reported one fracture on the mountain last year.

"As a ski patroller in Saint-Sauveur in the 50s, I remember a train load would come in, and people would go on the hill, and one day we took 13 fractures off the mountain."

Cole promises to be back at work as soon as the snow has covers the slopes of Morin Heights.

He says he sees no reason why he should give up the sport yet.

"Skiing is such a great sport. It's a family sport, but it's also a sport you can do alone. You can just go up, enjoy the fresh air and the sunshine."