When we talk about Squamish, the majestic home of our university, we highlight the mountains, the outdoor activities, the small town atmosphere, and it’s proximity to Vancouver and Whistler. We don’t often address the history that surrounds Squamish, and I think a little background to this post wouldn’t hurt.
Squamish became a town in the 1910s during the construction of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway. The area was already populated by the Sḵwxwú7mesh people; Squamish derives its name from the English pronunciation of Sḵwxwú7mesh, which has its roots in the Coast Salish language.
Forestry became the main industry, acess to both the rail and the sea allowed for sawmills, logging, and pulp mills to thrive. Although ‘new’ Squamish brands itself with organic foods at the Squamish Farmers Market, yoga studies for days, and as a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, old Squamish has a rich heritage in logging. I ask you to put aside your notions of mass deforestation and think about the skill, risk, and physical endurance required to be a logger back in the early 1900s. Squamish Days Loggers Sports celebrates the challenge of early logging without the political and environmental controversy that surrounds logging today.
Squamish has been hosting the Loggers Sports for 55 years now. Some refer to the games as the ‘Olympics of Logging’ and it is true that competitors come from around the world to participate. This isn’t an amateur showing- competitors train hard, and the games are certified by the Canadian Loggers Sports Association. There were men and women competing from as far away as New Zealand, and many coming from along the coast; Alaska, Washington, and Oregon locals were all present.
The events themselves are thrilling. You can check out the whole list of them here, but I want to take a second to explain a few of my favorites. First off, I love the Axe Throw. If the Hunger Games got you stoked on bow and arrows, Loggers Sports will make you want to throw an axe, at a bull’s eye, consistently. It is so impressive- they throw a double-bladed axe 20 feet to hit a 36-inch target!
Awesome. But not as awesome as the Springboard Chop. This one is a little scary to watch. Competitors are required to chop a notch into the side of a tree, insert a springboard, and then chop another notch while standing on the springboard, which is just a piece of wood wedged into the side of a tree. They must place 4 boards before chopping off the top of the tree. Please note that they are racing, so they do this ridiculously fast, and they are bouncing in the air while wielding an axe, easily 10 feet off the ground. A couple of guys fell, but luckily no accidents this year!
Finally, we have my two favorite events. The first is Tree Topping, which is the more extreme variation of Tree Climbing. You see in Tree Climbing consists of racing up an 80 foot tree using spiked shoes and a rope, somewhat resembling a higher tech Mowgli climb, and then racing down. The best in this race can be up and back on the ground in 30 seconds. Unbelievable. What could possibly be more epic than that? How about tying yourself off at the top and then proceeding to SAW OFF THE TOP of the 80 foot pole.
To finish things off, we have good ole Birling. There’s something so satisfying about watching two people run like cartoon characters on a slippery log. The risk factor is low, as long as you don’t mind getting wet, but it’s by far the funniest event of the competition.
Of course there are lots of other events, and I could ramble on about them for hours, but I’ll just leave you with a giant chainsaw carved Sasquatch instead. Feel free to have a Loggers Sports chat with me, but know that I often reenact things when I talk, so it could get intense.