Belczyk and his wife Rhonda enjoying the crisp, clean mountain air on Lauberhorn race weekend. Photo submitted

Castlegar ski legend fêted in Switzerland

Felix Belczyk invited to 90th anniversary celebrations of international ski event

A former Canadian ski champion — and Castlegar resident — was recently honoured at an international skiing event in Switzerland.

Felix Belczyk and his wife were invited to Wengen, Switzerland in January to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Lauberhorn ski race — one Belczyk won back in the 1980s.

Wengen sounds like just what you’d picture a Swiss skiing resort to be like — a tiny mountain village only accessible via a mountain cogwheel train.

“Moving the luggage from the car to the train platform brought back the first strong memories of my Wengen World Cup days,” says Belczyk, who now runs the Spiritleaf cannabis store in Castlegar. “Seeing the old station, watching the train approach, and the scent of the Wengen air stirred up powerful emotions. I knew it was just the beginning of an amazing weekend.”

Famous for its ski race since the 1930s, the Lauberhorn downhill course was quite familiar to Belczyk, who won the event in 1988.

“The Lauberhorn race was moved to Leukerbad that year when snow conditions were too poor to hold the races in Wengen,” Belczyk recalled. “My attire for the festivities [this year] included a pair of skis used during the races that year, and I chose to wear my Calgary Olympic clothing. I think the outfit went over well.”

The challenging course (it has a Canadian Corner, named for a portion of the course where Canadian athletes spectacularly wiped out in the past) pushes skiers‘ abilities, says Belczyk.

“The alpine combined is a race with a shortened downhill run and a single slalom all in the same day,” he says.

It combines the skills of speed and turning and a medal is presented. But generally it is not held in the same esteem as the real downhill or slalom.

“But the young Canadian team is still getting its feet wet, so any experience on the course is valuable. Two of the guys crashed (not hurt), and others made big errors so their ultimate position is not important,” he says.

Despite the Canadians’ challenges, Belczyk says it was a wonderful experience.

On Saturday night at the event center stage in downtown Wengen, and in front of 3,000 race fans and Swiss TV, race organizers presented all the former World Cup Lauberhorn winners.

“During the bib draw that evening, they introduced all the ‘legends,’” he recalled. “Many of the previous winners of the Lauberhorn trophy were introduced on stage including Peter Muller, Kyle Rasmussen, Marcus Wassmeier, Didier Defago, Roland Collombin, Ken Read, and many others.

“It was fun to see old friends and meet the legends I only knew from reputation.

“We wore clothing and carried skis from our era,” Belczyk added. However, “we did not race or get on the course which would be akin to letting an old Formula One racer drive a current race car.”

Seeing former rivals was fun and stirred up many old stories.

“A lot of the memories had to do with the celebrations after the race!” he quipped.

Belczyk and his wife enjoyed priority access to the course, visited and met the Canadian team members, and generally were given the VIP treatment the whole weekend. He says it’s an experience he won’t soon forget.

“I want to thank the Wengen World Cup organizing committee for the extraordinary hospitality during our stay,” he says. “Not only did they put on another world-class event, they provided us with an amazing experience that included skiing, events, accommodation, along with the opportunity to share memories with old racing friends.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The village of Wengen is exactly what you’d picture a Swiss ski resort town would look like. Photo submitted

Just Posted

All Kootenay Boundary parks and outdoor facilities closed

RDKB reminds all residents the shutdown is for public safety and in response to COVID-19

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake County MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Interior Health to host virtual town hall Friday, March 27

The Q&A forum begins at 6 p.m. PDT, link in story

West Kootenay octogenarian helping develop low-cost ventilator for COVID-19 patients

Peter Brockley is working with his doctor son, Graham, to develop the unit that could save lives

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Most Read