By Martin Cleary
When it came to alpine skiing, Ottawa’s Arnold Midgley was fully plugged into the winter sport, whether it was locally, nationally or internationally.
He could talk about all aspects of the speed and technical discipline because he had experience as an athlete, a coach, a race technical delegate, an international delegate, a hall of fame founder, a double hall-of-fame inductee, a contributor to the growing snowmaking industry and a promoter for cities bidding for major championships.
For almost 50 years, Midgley pursued alpine skiing from many different perspectives and was well respected in his various roles.
Midgley passed away Sept. 20. He was 88.
When the 1959-60 ski season started, he was a member of the first Canadian national alpine ski team, which trained in Rossland, B.C., and Kimberley, B.C. He narrowly missed being named to the Canadian team for the 1960 Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, California, but was selected as an alternate to support the team.
Following the Olympics, which saw Ottawa’s Anne Heggtveit win the women’s slalom by more than three seconds, Midgley captured the men’s slalom and combined gold medals during the national championships on his home trails, the Ottawa Ski Club at Camp Fortune.
Two years later, he was again a national champion in the combined event at Mont Orford, PQ.
Midgley first connected with racing in 1948, when he represented the Ottawa Ski Club in various Gatineau Ski Zone races.
While studying to become an electrical engineer, he balanced his academic studies by racing for the Carleton College (now Carleton University) and Queen’s University teams from 1953-57. He had his most success racing for Queen’s, winning multiple races during the Ontario and Quebec university championships at Collingwood, ON., in 1956 and Mont Gabriel, PQ., in 1957 respectively.
Midgley also raced with the Great Britain training squad and the British universities ski team in 1957 and 1958 and competed in the first Commonwealth Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
While representing Great Britain, he posted four victories, including the Roberts of Kandahar downhill and slalom. In a dual meet against Bergen University in Geilo, Norway, he was the fastest skier in the giant slalom and slalom races.
Joining the Canadian training squad for the 1958-59 season, he worked with legendary coach Pepi Salvenmoser. His racing schedule included many of today’s World Cup hotspots – Adelboden, Switzerland; Lauberhorn at Wengen, Austria; and the Hahnenkamm at Kitzbuhel, Austria.
When his ski racing days were finished, he shifted into another aspect of alpine skiing. He coached at Camp Fortune from 1960-64.
His main focus was training the junior skiers in the Gatineau zone. He also took the Quebec team to three Canadian junior championships in 1960, 1961 and 1963.
Olympian Judy (Crawford) Rawley and husband Kim Rawley of Ottawa praised Midgley’s coaching in an obituary guestbook comment.
“Great memories of being coached by Arnold on the side of Slalom Hill at Camp Fortune,” said a message co-signed by the Rawleys. “Arnold gave freely and unselfishly of his time each weekend and holiday and passed on his technical expertise on the art and science of alpine ski racing to us young and aspiring skiers.
“Arnold was always very upbeat and his coaching sessions were always very organized to maximize our training time. Thank you Arnold (coach Midgley) for your guidance and leadership and for all the years you put in coaching us. You made us all better.”
Judy Crawford represented Canada at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, and placed fourth in the women’s slalom.
At the same time he was coaching, Midgley became the technical chair for the Gatineau zone and was named a member of the International Ski Federation (FIS) downhill-slalom committee, which later became the alpine committee.
For most of the 1960s and 1970s, he worked on a variety of FIS sub committees and new committees, including rules, points and the World Cup. He also was a member of the Canadian delegation to eight biennial FIS Congresses.
His tireless work was recognized in 1975, when he was elected to the FIS Council. He held that position until 1979.
Starting in 1968, he served as a technical delegate at major international competitions for World Cup downhill races in Aspen, Colorado (three times), World Cup downhills in Sugarloaf, Maine, and Vail, Colorado, and the United States downhill championships at Copper Mountain, Colorado.
For most of the 1970s, he provided support to various groups bidding for major international competitions – Banff/Lake Louise and the 1972 Olympic Winter Games, Garibaldi/Whistler Mountain and the 1976 Olympic Winter Games, Lake Louise and the 1974 world alpine championships and Whistler Mountain and the 1978 world alpine championships.
Midgley also played a vital role in the development of recreational skiing across North America. He used his engineering skills “to design the electrical power and control systems for major snowmaking and power supply installations at a wide variety of skiing venues,” according to the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame and Museum website.
In 1966, he supported a proposal, which was accepted by the Canadian Ski Association, to create the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame and Museum. He was the first chair in 1975-76 and again held that position from the late-1990s to the mid-2000s. He hired the first full-time curator and introduced the digital age to the museum.
Midgley was inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame and Museum in 1993 in the athlete category. He also is a member of the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame.
Former Ottawa Ski Club racer and coach Jamie Rosewarne called Midgley “a kind and giving soul.”
“So genuinely humble and caring,” he wrote. “His presence at competitions always conveyed an air of fairness and equity to all and respect to the spirit of great sport. I so much enjoyed watching him in action and learning from his leadership.
“His contributions to Camp Fortune/Ottawa Ski Club, (the) skiing community in our region and well beyond will well be remembered. We have lost a truly wonderful man, but we are all richer from his presence.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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