Hall of Famer
Involved in skiing for over 60-years, Harry Wheeler, born October 25, 1903, made a major contribution to the development of the sport in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. He is best known as the owner of the internationally famous Gray Rocks Inn and the father of Lucille Wheeler, Canada’s first Olympic medallist in alpine skiing, a bronze at the VII Olympic Winter Games held at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, in 1956
From 1920 to 1930, he played an active part in the development of skiing at Mont Tremblant, through trail blazing and the construction of Gray Rocks Cabin close to the mountain’s summit.
Eventually, Mont Tremblant would expand to become a destination resort, the largest in eastern Canada, and well-known both nationally and internationally.
In 1932, there was a fortuitous meeting between Harry Wheeler (competing for Canada in dogsled racing as a demonstration sport at the III Olympic Winter Games in 1932 at Lake Placid, New York State) and the late Lowell Thomas, internationally acclaimed American broadcaster. As a consequence, Lowell Thomas was persuaded to visit Mont Tremblant accompanied by wealthy American businessman, Joe Ryan. A native of Philadelphia, USA, scion of an extremely wealthy family, Ryan had always had an interest in wilderness and, in his youth, spent considerable time exploring the rivers and forests of eastern Canada. In 1937, Joe Ryan, accompanied by Lowell Thomas, climbed Mont Tremblant on skis with skins to discover the outstanding views across the Laurentians from its summit. At the top, an exhausted Joe Ryan was reputed to have said, “This has to be the most beautiful sight in the world. There is only one thing wrong. It is too difficult getting up here. I believe I’ll fix that!” Mont Tremblant today is the result of Joe Ryan’s vision and financial acumen.
From 1930 until 1960, Harry Wheeler was the driving force behind the famed Taschereau Ski Race. He promoted and organized the event sponsored by Gray Rocks Inn, prepared the course, purchased the prizes and arranged accommodation for officials and competitors alike at the Gray Rocks Inn.
In 1940, he guided the development of the famous Gray Rock Inn Ski School which became a major factor in the emergence of the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) and the adoption of uniform ski teaching methods throughout Canada. He took a number of ski teams to competitions in the US and in 1949 managed a Downhill and Slalom team competing at Aspen, Colorado and Sun Valley, Idaho. It was at Sun Valley in 1949 that he became aware of a packaged “Learn to Ski Week”, and persuaded Gray Rocks to offer a similar package, previously unknown in Canada. The outcome was an approach to a ski vacation that became universally adopted.
A man of considerable foresight, from 1960 onwards he was able to guarantee his winter guests snow at Gray Rocks by installing an extensive system of snow-making equipment, one of the first resorts to do so.
Please Note: The ski information gathered here is compiled from a number of sources; it may not be inclusive of all accomplishments.
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Snow Eagles 1953
Gray Rocks Inn, St. Jovite, La Province de Quebec, "The winter sport resort" presents Snow Eagles. Featuring Real Charette and his instructors. 1953.