By David F. Rooney
Flight was in his Spirit is Marion Burfield’s loving and heartfelt tribute to her father, Ski jumper and ski hill promoter Harry Burfield.
Born in Revelstoke back in 1915, Burfield was an avid competitor as a ski jumper and downhill skier throughout western Canada and the northwestern US. He went to war in 1943 with the Royal Canadian Air Force and, when peace was achieved, he picked up where he left off. He also began looking to the future.
Marion Burfield’s slim but lavishly illustrated 167-page book chronicles her father’s adventures as a skier and his contributions to skiing in general
and British Columbia’s ski resort industry in particular.
Harry Burfield with his wife Katherine “Rene” Ann Morrison and their children Richard and Marion became most closely identified with Hollyburn Mountain near Vancouver’s North Shore and Tod Mountain north of Kamloops. According to www.trailpeak.com, “Hollyburn Peak is an uphill snowshoe route to the peak, which delivers a spectacular view of Georgia Straight, the Lions, and the nearby Grouse Mountain area” and is actually within Cypress Provincial Park. It was very popular with cross-country skiers and snowshoers.
Harry had a ski shop — his brother Fred and his family operated the Hollyburn Ski Lodge there at the same time — and lived on the mountain until 1959 when the family moved to North Vancouver. Back then North Van was nothing like it is today. It was pretty undeveloped.
In 1961 Harry, who was also a superb carpenter, was asked help build the Tod Mountain ski lodge north of Kamloops. He then moved the family to Tod Mountain where he opened a ski shop.
The family had a happy and active life at Tod Mountain but moved to Kamloops in 1963 to open the Burfield Ski and Sports Shop at 145 Victoria Street. Harry, who also also had a 15-minute TV program called Sports View on Kamloops’ CFJC-TV, heavily promoted skiing at the burgeoning resort. Over the years his ambitions grew and he began dreaming of purchasing Tod Mountain.
However, that dream came crashing down on June 12, 1971, when Harry left his store to pick up a young couple, ski aerobatics champion Wolfgang Ehmann and Christine Saunders, both from Calgary at the Kamloops Airport. He was talking about purchasing the mountain with the couple and they boarded a float plane on the North Thompson River for a scenic flight.
Tragically, they never returned from that flight. The aircraft crashed in the Seven Mile Meadows on the back side of Tod Mountain.
Burfield’s death was a heavy blow for the close-knit family, which suffered another grievous blow when Richard was killed in an avalanche in 1977. Harry’s widow, Rene kept the ski shop going until 1981 when she moved to Sorrento. Sadly for the family she passed away in 2006.
That left Marion to write this sweet little story of a family that helped promote the burgeoning ski resort industry in this province. But even that wasn’t the end of the Harry Burfield story: the family held a memorial service for him at the Sunpeaks Resort’s Burfield Lodge in 1991. And just last January the resort held a Grand Reunion Gala evening to celebrate 50 years of skiing at Tod Mountain and 20 years as Sun Peaks Resort.
Author Marion Burfield shows a great deal of pluck in discussing the tragedies that befell her family but she never loses sight of her commitment to celebrating her father’s life. She does so simply and lovingly. Flight was in his Spirit is a heart-felt and very nice volume that marks the life of a remarkable Revelstoke-born skier.
Flight was in his Spirit, by Marion Burfield, Rikkur Publishing, 167 pages, $29.95
It is available, in Revelstoke, at Grizzly Books, Sangha Bean Cafe, the Revelstoke Museum & Archives, Skookum Cycle, Beyond Gifts, the Revelstoke Visitors Centre, Three Valley Gap and the Old Frontier. You can also order it online. Click here to visit the Flight was in his Spirit website.
Flight was in his Spirit is also available in communities outside Revelstoke. Click here to access a list of sales locations.