Ethel Lumby: Honoured Official – Blazing a Pathway
Recognizing skill, leadership and innovation while opening doors.
Canmore (AB) – Ethel Lumby brought a remarkable mixture of teacher and innovator to the sport of alpine ski racing, while using her skills to earn respect. Through her fifty years as a parent-volunteer, official and course worker, she broke barriers and proved that no task was too hard. These remarkable qualities are recognized as the Honoured Official in her induction into the Class of 2020 of the Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame.
Ethel’s ski journey has taken her from Europe, to the river valleys of Saskatchewan, to the Canadian Rockies and to the highest levels of competition as an official. Like so many dedicated volunteers, it has been a family journey.
From early beginnings on the snow with school trips to Switzerland from her native Great Britain, Ethel and Colin Lumby emigrated to Canada in the late 1950’s. Ethel started her teaching career in Regina which initially included outdoor activities with school outings for cross country and alpine skiing. Then with older students when teaching phys-ed, she built her love of the outdoors with canoe trips and ski outings. Family soon became the focal point and it was at the White Track Ski Hill near Moose Jaw where the Lumby children were first introduced to the sport.
“The mountains beckoned, so we moved to Calgary”, so the lure of the Rockies brought the Lumby family to Alberta in 1967. Ethel returned to teaching elementary school, but independently organized cross country programs. She was thrilled to watch 3 ex-students compete in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games.
Skiing brought the three Lumby children – Pollie, Wendy and Martin – into ski racing, joining the Nancy Greene Ski League, first at Happy Valley and then to the Skimeisters.
Parent-volunteers run the races and the Lumby’s joined right in. Ethel’s first task was timing, which quickly evolved to joining the Alberta Division Board as the Skimeisters Club representative. “I was involved in a fast learning curve with Dee Read guiding us all on the finer points of the sport” shared Ethel. This led to the position as Provincial Technical Chair. Guidance and mentorship from Maurice Lehodey in the officials pathway led to her certification as a national and international official where she became one of the first women world-wide to earn a FIS Technical Delegates licence in 1980.
“For the first few years I was delegated to the FIS slaloms in Red Deer” said Ethel. “I got fed up dropping my toe nails through freezing – no temperature criteria in those days!” But the experience gained from Nor-Am and the Winterstart World Cup positioned her for the Assistant Chief of Race for the women’s speed events in the 1988 Olympics, which broke a glass ceiling for Olympic Organizers to include a woman in a senior position in a major event.
One might be surprised to hear the range of tasks involved: working with convicts shooting snow down tarps to the start; insisting on Toilets for the racers on hill (one fell from the helicopter); monitoring vagabond media personnel into safe zones. “We were on the bus at 5am and going to sleep after meeting at 10 pm but a very exciting time.”
Her leadership role as a FIS TD extended into the new events for snow sports. Ethel served as FIS TD for one of the first World Cup snowboard events, at Mt. Bachelor, Oregon in 1997. “Many of the racers were quite apprehensive of the FIS involvement but wanted the insurance coverage. The atmosphere was much lighter than ski races. Pre-race nerves never evident, but focused on course. It was a learning experience for both myself and the borders as to what how FIS needed things to be done and what the sport could bring to FIS”. She also took on FIS Boardercross assignments. Ethel retired as a FIS TD in 1998, but she is quick to point out she continued to work as starter for races for several more years.
The Lumby family was fully invested in ski racing: all of Ethel and Colin’s children moved through the Alberta system and are Alberta Ski Team alumni. Wendy and Marty have also had long coaching careers with ski clubs in the province. Colin was the reliable parent-volunteer throughout it all.
The mark that Ethel has left on our sport still resonates. Ethel stands out for taking on and progressing to the highest-level of official’s roles (and excelling) in a time when women were mostly expected (or perhaps preferred) to stay behind the scenes and provide a good lunch. This, while raising three children and maintaining her teaching career.
Racers of that era will remember Ethel being a strong TD and official; firm but fair. She had a strong voice and a calm approach which stood her well. One Alberta Ski Team alumni recalled “I remember Ethel taking the time to explain the proper rules to me.” A Skimeister alumni shared “I appreciated her no nonsense, straight shooter, awesomeness. It made her a great TD, and a great person in general. “
To Ethel, the positive influence of the sport was always apparent. “Ski racing became a lifestyle in our house” she shared. “All of us worked as a team to organize our days. The importance of a full commitment to the sport and how to support one another at home as well as our peers.”
We congratulate – Ethel Lumby – the 2020 Honoured Official, for her induction into the Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame and her lifetime commitment to our sport and to Canadian ski racing.
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