Randy Pruden: Honoured Builder
Behind every great race is a passionate person to build the track.
If you’ve raced, officiated, or watched a World Cup or FIS Downhill or Super-G in Western Canada over the last 29 years, you owe a significant debt to Randy. From his largely by-chance start as a ski race volunteer, he grew to become the de facto leader in Canada for designing, installing, and developing the complex on-course systems critical to athlete safety in speed races – especially at Lake Louise and Vancouver 2010.
His personal highlights say much about this selfless and soft-spoken leader. From the start, it’s been about watching exceptional athletes blazing by on massive skis from close-quarters and wanting to know how the course and safety worked. Evolving from a volunteer to the paid crew and then ultimately becoming the Chief of Safety for the Lake Louise World Cup pleasantly surprised the guy who largely didn’t ski much less race when he came to Jasper and the Rockies. Working directly for Alpina in the lead-up to Vancouver 2010 and then the re-design of Lake Louise’s Fishnet, Fall-Away, and Tickety net systems to respond to modern realities also make him proud.
Topping those personal highlights, however, is how his work and energy incrementally – or by huge, measurable factors – significantly reduced the number of serious injuries. Watching athletes “dust themselves off and ski away” rather than need the toboggan “is everything”. Behind these gains are people that Randy feels privileged to have worked with or led, especially the beloved Net Monkeys. Francois Bourque once couriered Randy and the crew 7 kg of Moose Meat to say thanks after a trip into the nets with a good outcome at Panorama! Pretty good for “a guy who is not a math or physics person. I just paid attention to O-Zee (John Oostyen), had questions and ideas, and watched a lot of racing.”
- 1992 – Volunteered first ski race at Jasper – Cavendish Cup with Chuck Cantlay – after moving to the area at 19 as a cook.
- 1994 – first year volunteering at Lake Louise World Cup. Recruited by Dick Porteous and Gene Durand.
- 1995 – joined the ‘paid’ Net Crew.
- 1999 – became Chief of Safety for LL World Cup.
- 2010 – helped design and build all safety for Vancouver Winter Games Alpine.
- 2012/2013 – major redesign of LL World Cup Safety.
- Has worked high-level speed races across the country: Mt. St. Anne, Panorama, Whistler, Apex, and Nakiska – “everywhere there was a serious SG or DH.”
- 2018 – stepped back from Leading the Net Monkey’s and Safety at LL and is currently building exceptional bike, ski, and sled trails in Valemount, BC.
The list of people Randy acknowledges as important influences on him and why is striking. Doug Savage went from employer to best friend and instilled both a passion for ski racing and the important virtue of patience, “we can do that next season”. Bruce Hampstead instilled gravitas, “ski racing is serious business – it’s the car crash without the car.” FIS Technical Directors Helmut Schmatzl and Atle Skaardal for changing outlooks and reducing the sport’s macho attitude. Darrell MacLachlan, Gene Durand, Dan Gallagher, and John Oostyen for their respect, trust, and instilling work ethic, knowledge, and an ethos that all questions are good and that the work is never done. Finally, although he was their leader, he learned much from his crew, together everyday for 13 weeks each year.
Randy is a thoughtful person and has important insight to share. In whatever role you have, get interested, ALWAYS ask questions, and commit to learning however you can (he watched races on TV to learn from the crashes – not out of morbid interest!) including listen carefully to the conversations on your radio for insight.
As a leader, know that you are dealing with a huge mix of knowledge and talent – always explain the ‘why’ so they understand and then share and spread information as far as possible to create a higher standard. Do all the work that you demand of your crew. His Net Monkey Rule #1 – Pay attention. Rule #2 – see Rule #1. He attributes the group’s effectiveness largely to “Go out as a crew and come home as a crew” and an attitude that everything they do is about the inexperienced ‘999’ athletes – get them to the bottom and give them all a 100% fair race.
With your people, Randy says to never judge a book by its cover. Teach respect, to be professional, and to be a good human. Pay attention. Be humble. With the paid-crew at LL, “we’re just like volunteers – just here longer.”
As to the differences in dealing with speed races? “Every knot counts – details are critical to good outcomes.” The force of a 100kg racer moving at 100kph is astounding.
From long experience and caring, Randy has some advice for younger racers. “Have patience. Bad things happen when you are in a hurry. Wait for it!” Also, “We know where the WC line is, but inspect where you’ll likely going to be skiing because you’re not that strong yet. Be honest with yourself.” A favourite moment on a course was when a storied West Coast coach answered a question from his athletes about line by pointing at Randy, “this guy stands here every day of the season – ask him!”
Not surprising, ski racing has changed Randy’s life – even though he’s quick to tell you of the parallels between feeding hundreds in a restaurant and delivering a World Cup race! “I can go to any town and sure enough, run into people I’ve worked with, who want to talk.” Every year, when temperatures start to drop, his phone starts to ring with people calling from around the world, to check in and check up, “this enthralls and humbles me!” Community, friendships, passion, the satisfaction from teamwork, and a continued effort to make his part of the sport “less individual, more team/family” continue to be rewarding. And even though he is still trying to reconcile that ‘this actually was a job”, he takes great satisfaction that he is “one of only a handful of people in the world who can do this. Not in an ego sense, but it is just so darn cool!”
Ski racing is filled with characters, but in his quiet way, Randy epitomizes the quality of character.
Thank you for all you have done, Randy Pruden!
The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame is pleased to recognize Randy Pruden, our 2021 Honoured Builder, for a lifetime of passion for ski racing and providing those essential great training and competition venues for our athletes!
Author: Gregg Ferguson