Nov. 19, 2008 - Issue #683: Never Mind the Bollocks… Let’s Dance!
Last Run: Local ski founder rides chairlift to heaven
The Edmonton ski scene would not be what it is today without the man many knew as “Suds.” In 1955 he cleared land on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River east of Devon to create what was originally known as Saskatchewan Mountain but soon took on the name Rabbit Hill.
“It started as a hobby, using an old milk truck to power a rope tow,” says his son, Jim, who, along with a partner, took over the operation of the area from his father in the 1980s.
In the mid-’60s, Rabbit Hill became one of the first areas in North America to have snowmaking, and the system Sutherland designed is still in use today. When tillers were first designed for the back of snowcats to improve grooming in the early 1980s, he was also one of the first to see the practical use for the technology and bring it to his hill, says Jim.
His love of powder and backcountry skiing lead Bob to research and help develop fat powder skis and adjustable touring bindings, innovations for which he obtained patents in North America and Europe.
As impressive as his accomplishments in the ski industry were, they were only one part of his life. In his professional career, he was Dr Sutherland, the first chief of ophthalmology at Foothills Hospital who developed new techniques in manufacturing hard contact lenses and ran a large contact lens practice in Calgary.
His obituary stated “the last powder cowboy is gone” but his contributions and passion for the sport live on through the lives he touched and Edmonton is a richer skiing community for it. V
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