Rod Cunningham

Rod Cunningham

OUR TOWN: Rod Cunningham is a true Bulkley Valley skiing legend

Cunningham received a free 2012-2013 season pass after becoming the fifth recipient of the Legendary Local program from Hudson Bay Mountain.

With all due respect to the Hudson Bay Mountain slogan, “It’s always been about the powder,” long-time Smithers resident Rod Cunningham believes hitting the slopes offers much more than great snow.

“We always have a lot of fun up there,” Cunningham said.

“I like to meet people and I think it’s about the fun and friendship we have.”

Cunningham received a free 2012-2013 season pass after becoming the fifth recipient of the Legendary Local program from Hudson Bay Mountain.

Nancy Treiber, general manager of Hudson Bay Mountain, said the program is about giving back to the community for the great support they receive from locals year after year.

“We wanted a way to say thank you and recognize those people who have been really supportive of the mountain,” she said.

“We don’t sit in the office and decide who the Legendary Local should be.

“We let everyone who purchased a 2012/2013 season pass during the local sale get a vote for who they think embodies the spirit of Hudson Bay Mountain.”

It’s clear Cunningham is a fixture on the mountain.

“Since I retired, a bunch of us get together and go, especially for Thrilling Thursdays,” he said.

“They have town sponsors with draws and prizes like hats, jackets, toques, that sort of thing. The hill gives away free appies and you get tickets for drinks and things, too. We always go on Thursday even if it’s raining, windy, or snowing, whatever.

“We often go up on the weekends, too. It’s quite a bit of fun.”

Cunningham has celebrated birthdays on the hill and also enjoyed building entries for the Dummy Downhill competitions.

One of them even made an appearance at a fall fair parade after successfully surviving its downhill plunge.

Cunningham grew up on the prairies and jokingly said that there weren’t many hills for him to ski as a youngster, which is probably why he enjoys it so much here.

A former resident of Prince George and Nanaimo, Cunningham moved to Smithers in 1963, pursuing his career as a meat cutter.

He worked for Super Valu for a number of years and then worked about another 20 years with West Fraser.

Throughout it all, there was skiing.

“I had my first pass for the whole year, both my wife and me, in 1984/1985,” Cunningham said.

“My kids all skied up there, too.”

Now 81 years young, his best days of skiing might still be ahead of him.

For many people Cunningham’s age, fun might be a leisurely stroll or a game of Bridge but he played hockey for more than 30 years, which has probably contributed to his ability to keep skiing long after many others have hung up their boots.

Cunningham is modest and said he mostly sticks to the easier runs, but that statement doesn’t quite gel with the fact that in the 2009 Schuss Boomer competition, he was clocked on radar at 62 kilometres per hour.

Cunningham said the staff at the mountain are really good at what they do and credits instructor Glen Curley with helping him along with his skiing ability.

New to the Legendary Local program this year are some permanent additions to a few chairlifts.

“We’re bringing all five legendary locals together and we’re going to have each of them come up with a phrase,” said Treiber.

“Their names and the phrase will go on plaques attached to the first chairs on the Skyline chairlift.”

Cunningham is very appreciative of the free pass but for him it’s about getting back to the hill when the snow flies again.

“It was pretty neat,” Cunnigham said. “I got my money back and have more chances to go up and have more fun.”