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The Story Behind the Swedes At the Hollyburn Ski Camp

Shortly before Christmas in 2009, the Hollyburn Heritage Society received an e-mail from Monica Ronnkvist, a resident of Leksand, Sweden, requesting information about Oscar Pearson and his cousins, Olle Anderson and Andrew Irving. Before arriving on Hollyburn Ridge in 1927 to build and operate the Hollyburn Ski Camp, Oscar, Olle and Andrew had grown up in Leksand.


Monica and several others with a passion for local history were planning an exhibition of photos focussing on the lives and accomplishments of Leksand pioneers. While doing research     on the Internet, Monica found references to Oscar, Olle, and Andrew on the HHS web site.

When HHS received the e-mail from Monica, we were very excited. For over ten years, we had tried to trace the Swede's roots in Sweden, to no avail. After Monica contacted us, we sent her several photos which were later used in the Leksand exhibition. In return, we received a number of items from Monica, many of which are displayed on this web page. Shortly before the Winter Olympics began Monica was interviewed by Swedish newspapers and radio, resulting in thousands of overseas visits to our web site.

 The following information provided by Monica Ronnkvist and the people of Leksand has added greatly to our knowledge about the much appreciated but little known Swedes at the Hollyburn Ski Camp.


Roots in Sweden

Between 1850 and 1930 about 3000 people belonging to Leksand´s parish emigrated to the USA and Canada. At first the emigration was caused by the years of famine in Sweden. When they had arrived there they sent back descriptions of a land of milk and honey. More and more people were infected by the ”American Dream”. Back then no passport was required to get into the USA. But a passport was required for leaving Dalecarlia and Leksand.

Israels Anders Andersson/Andrew Irving (1894-1976) was born in the village of Ullvi, some 5 km outside of Leksand in 1894. In 1921 he sailed to Canada with a good friend from the village. The boys were accustomed to transporting timber from the woods in the winter by horse. In Canada they had a similar job the first 6 months. They worked long hours, between 10 and 11 hours a day. In Canada Israels Anders Andersson changed his name to Andrew Irving.

 In 1931 Anders went back to Sweden to pick up his fiancé, Brusk Stina Ersdotter-Irving (1903-1995). They got married during the trip back to Vancouver. In the simply equipped cabins Stina took care of the household for the men.

Djäken Olof Andersson/Ole Anderson (1895-1977) was born in the village of Ullvi, some 5 km outside of Leksand in 1895. He graduated as an engineer in the city of Falun and worked on his parent’s farm during the holidays. The story goes that Olle fell in love with a girl and that he decided to emigrate to the USA in 1922 when the young couple wasn’t allowed to get married. On Hollyburn, Olof was known as Olle Anderson.

Klockar Oscar Persson/Oscar Pearson was born 1891 in the village of Hälla, Leksand. During the childhood he was working at his father’s farm as well as in the family’s store in the middle of Leksand.  In 1923 Oscar left Sweden for the USA. Hollyburners knew him as Oscar Pearson.

Axel Snis (1902-1941) was born in the village of Hälla, some 6 km outside of Leksand. He was one of the first in the circle of friends who emigrated to the USA. He was a talented skier and competed in several competitions in Vancouver among other locations with good results. Later on he was recruited as a military teacher for teaching soldiers in the art of skiing. He was deceased in an accident in 1941. Vancouver sportswriters referred to him as Axel Sneis.

These four men from Leksand got together in Vancouver and founded Hollyburn Ski Camp. They built eighteen small timber cabins that reminded them of the wooden hórreos in Leksand. In a larger building both a diner and ski rental were founded.

When they returned to Sweden in 1946 they discovered that things had went well in Sweden as well. In the autumn they sold the company and went back to Sweden permanently.  In 1950, at the invitation of Hollyburn Aerial Trams (the company that built the Hollyburn chairlift), Oscar returned to Vancouver. During the next decade, Oscar greeted thousands of people as they arrived at the upper terminus of the chairlift. In 1961, Oscar returned to Sweden.




By Pollough Pogue - First Forest Officer on Hollyburn

A reprint of this article was published in the March 1959 edition of the Vancouver Ski Club newsletter “Ski Trails”

EDITOR'S NOTE (MAY 2010): The following article, written by Daily Province writer Pollough Pogue circa 1940, provides additional information about the Swedes at the Hollyburn (Pacific) Ski Camp. Pogue refers to events that occured several years before the article was published. A couple of dates in the article may be wrong. Based on other articles Pogue wrote in 1927, we know he visited the Hollyburn Ski Camp on several occasions during that year and also climbed Hollyburn Peak.

Pogue indicates that "Oscar, assisted by Harold Enquist and Axel Sneis, built the present Ski Camp in 1926". (Eleven years later, in 1937, Harold Enquist was the first person to establish the first commercial ski lodge on Mount Seymour.) Pogue also records that Oscar, "along with Ole Anderson and Andrew Irving (Andre Israels) . . . was operating the First Lake Ski Camp" in 1928. Photos in the HHS archives indicate Ole and Andrew were working at the ski camp early in 1927. (The first Hollyburn Pacific Ski Camp owner, Rudolph Jules Verne,  states in a 1937 article that the ski camp was "erected through the joint efforts of Oscar Pierson, Andrew Israels, and Olaf Anderson.")

When you have hiked for two hours up the Hollyburn trail and are so hungry you could eat fricassee of boot soles stewed in dubbin, with a garnishing of Swiss hobnails, you come abruptly to a little clearing and a dark sleeping lake in the dark, solemn sleeping forest, which the shouts of hikers have never awakened. Beside the lake is a big wooden cabin painted a moderate red, with white trimmings. On the front of the porch is a large signboard with lines painted on it, the ingenious quaintness of which seems somehow to be appropriate:

"Be of good cheer; you're welcome here.

If sad and alone let this be your home

Here you will find a welcome kind.”

Oscar the Swede, who is the greeter and welcomer and coffee expert of this mountain inn, made up this artless rhyme himself. He never composed any poetry before, and he has no literary aspirations. In all likelihood he never will construct another lyric. He wrote it down on paper in Swedish first, like this:

"Bliv av gott humor; du ar volkommen hare.

Om du at sargsen och ensam, lat detta bli ditt hem.

Har du vill finna volkomst av alla slag.”

He translated this into English, and Mr. Fraser, a hiker, who is an artist, obligingly lettered the signboard for Oscar.

The versicle on the Signboard is not a mere passage of empty words. The weary hiker who achieves the ski camp after climbing 3000 feet is welcomed with just the kind of simple mountain hospitality expressed in the doggerel lines. You can take them almost literally. There is no more commercial spirit in your welcome than is implied in the homely words on the signboard. Oscar's charges are very moderate. The hungry hiker pays no more for his meal of bacon and beans and coffee than he would on Granville Street in Vancouver. All supplies for the camp are carried up the steep trail in the packsacks of Oscar and his tillicums. These husky Swedes backpack fifty pounds or more every time they come up the trail. If the tired hiker desires to park at the camp for the night he pays forty cents for a bunk filled with fir boughs. No reasonable person would call this excessive, and after two hours of trail your repose will be just as profound on a bough bed as on the softest mattress.

Oscar's welcome to the weary hiker is invariably emphasized by a mug of hot coffee. Taken internally, this is a powerful stimulant. After two cups of Oscar's coffee you forget your weariness and are eager for further exertion. Used as a lotion and rubbed on tired limbs it will take away the muscular soreness and stiffness. It is a rugged beverage. It is famous among mountain hikers but no lazy man ever tasted it. 

Oscar Pearson is known to young and old on the Ridge, so perhaps it is a good time to let the young folk (say those under 20?) learn a little more about him. He was born in Sweden - you will have to get the date from Oscar!


 (L-R) Ole Anderson, Oscar Pearson & Andrew Irving in front of the Hollyburn Ski Camp, early 1930's
(Nordal Kaldah Collection)l

According to historical data already recorded, Oscar, assisted by Harold Enquist and Axel Sneis, built the present Ski Camp in 1926, using material from the Old Mill (Nasmyth's). The writer first met Oscar in 1928 when I made my first full ascent of the Hill. Along with Ole Anderson and Andrew Irving (Andre Israels), he was operating the First Lake Ski Camp (better known at that time as the Hollyburn Ski Camp from which the original Ski Club received its name.)

In 1928, aided by the others at the Ski Camp, the First Lake Ski Jump was built. It was a good jump and was the pride and joy of the Ski Club as it was the first one to be constructed on the North Shore mountains. During the years 1928-1935 "The Swedes" as they were affectionately known, built many small cabins around the Ski Camp and furnished them with the necessities - bunks, a table, a couple of stools, a stove and the all important box for firewood, plus lamps and coal oil. At that time these cabins housed 8 people, and as most of the cabins were occupied by girls who always used the precious fluid for fire lighting, I have often wondered if Oscar ever figured out how many gallons of coal oil were packed up the Hill. Eventually, his good nature became exhausted and we were told we had to pack our own coal oil. When you stop to think that everything was packed on one's back from Marine Drive, is it any wonder?

In 1935 the "Boys" re-built the jump at First Lake. During all these years the Hollyburn Trail was in existence. It was kept in perfect condition insofar as the elements would allow. Each summer Oscar and his pals would work on it and each spring Dame Nature would take over and reduce most of it to a rock pile again. The original trail, as I recall it, went up 22nd to Marr Creek, around the side hill (following the old flume) and then straight up towards the Old Mill and on to the Ski Camp. About 1930, "Low Gear" and the "Thirty-minute" Trails were constructed - I wonder if anyone ever really made the latter in that time - by these same hard-working gentlemen. Eventually, the lower half of the trail gave way to the road (I use the word lightly), which lessened the work of Oscar and his friends. 

During all these years Oscar has been a friend to many thousands of hikers and his name will long be remembered by everyone who ever climbed the Ridge. 

SKI TRAILS EDITOR' S NOTE (March 1959): This article was written by Mr. Pollough Pogue and published in the "Vancouver Daily Province" many years ago and I am sure express the feelings of us all who were fortunate enough to sample "Oscar's Brew." (Coffee, that is.) Incidentally, I think Mr. Pogue must have been looking at some of Oscar's smaller loads when he mentions fifty pounds; most of the loads they carried were much heavier.