A dedicated master of timing, whose passion for ski racing ensures our events run smoothly and fairly
Skiing and ski racing are a life-long passion for our Honoured Lifetime Volunteer, Mark Bowman. “I was around 13 years old and had been skiing since I was 6 but had never been racing or coached, when family friend Joe Irwin (2013 Honoured Builder) encouraged my Dad, Murray, to enrol me in the Lake Louise Ski Club” recalled our Honoured Volunteer. Under the watchful eye of Mike Wiegele (2015 Honoured Builder), his brother Norbert and Andre Schwartz, Mark honed his ski racing skills alongside teammate Mike Irwin (2015 Honoured AST alumni) to be named to the Alberta Ski Team four years later.
Ski racing is core to the Bowman family. Mark had the opportunity to race across Canada in Nor-Am, Pontiac Cup and in Canadian Championships, an experience he shared with his wife, Pamela and daughter Rachel. “I’m proud that both myself and my daughter Rachel raced in the Pontiac Cup Series – one of Canada’s longest-ever running title sponsor race series.”
Following his post-competitive student days at the University of Calgary, it was the first World Cup downhill to be staged in Canada at Lake Louise in 1980 that brought Mark back into the ski racing community. This landmark event and the 1988 Olympic Games found him back onto the track on race crews. “In 1988, I was praying my assigned slalom poles would stay in place during the last 3 racers of the men’s 2nd SL run which was won by Alberto Tomba.”
Mark’s commitment to ski racing really ramped up in the usual manner of ski families. Both Mark and Pamela began to volunteer at events with the Banff Alpine Racers in support of their daughter Rachel. But a nagging hip injury led to a life-altering change of focus. ‘It was Bill Irwin who suggested “if I could ‘hobble over to the finish line they could probably use a hand with some timing stuff’. I didn’t see it coming – and fell for it hook, line and sinker. I had no idea how the timing systems worked and it appealed to my curiosity and interest in technology, plus I understood how critical it is to have reliable results with no delays. Nobody wants timing to be the reason the awards are delayed.”
He quickly progressed to becoming the “timing guru” for the club, which of course led to assignments across western Canada for FIS, Nor-Am and Canadian Championship events. He was welcomed into the elite level by the late Dick Beare (2016 Honoured Official) and retired Canadian TD Commissioner Ted Savage and partner James Broder who headed up the Winterstart World Cup timing crew at Lake Louise. He also served at other Canadian World Cup venues including Sunshine, Panorama and Whistler.
Timing and volunteering are a valued skill set that has proved invaluable beyond the ski slopes. Mark joined the Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon timing team in 2007. “I jumped at the chance and within 4 years became the Manager of Timing and Data Operations, which continues to be rewarding through all the acquaintances and genuine friends I have met within the Stampede and also from the 2 other chuckwagon associations.”
Timing is essential to ski racing and the complexity of setting up precision systems on the side of a mountain can come with many stories. “I think it was a fear of failure that led me to setting up all the timing gear each fall” shared Mark. “Testing all the equipment and scenarios I could envision happening on the race course” – I enlisted Rachel and her kittens to run through the finish eyes randomly to simulate false finishes and overtakes.” Everything from avalanches wiping out starts, sewage leaks in timing rooms and power supplies catching on fire in the timing hut, our Honoured Volunteer has seen it all.
“Volunteering is selfless and brings surprising rewards that you cannot ever imagine, says our Honoured Volunteer. “My father was involved with timing at the Lake Louise Ski Club. My mother was the Race Secretary – and my sister Cindy got dragged into it as well that launched her into working for the 1988 Olympic Organizing Committee. I can’t think of any time in my life that my father wasn’t an active volunteer, and his motto was ‘volunteering is the price you pay to be a full member of that community’. I still volunteer at a number of races each year as it is important to give back to the sport and local clubs and to help train others newer to race timing. It is always great to contribute to the success of a race and I have met many other racer parent volunteers that have become good friends.
Those close friends include fellow dedicated timers Rob Twitchen and Faron Roth with Banff Alpine “we worked totally in synch and would not let each other fail” to Dick Beare and Dave Bartle “The best and most dedicated Alberta Timers” to Bill and Mike Irwin for getting and keeping me involved in timing “How many times did I hear – ‘Hey Bow, we are running this little race next month and could use a timer…” to Darrell MacLachlan “for his unwavering commitment to the program and to excellence”. And on the snow with Mike Wiegele, Andre Schwartz, Mike Irwin, Ken Read “for their expertise, support and drive to improve.”
“I still volunteer at ski races because I like to support the current ROC’s running races, but mainly because I enjoy the friendship and camaraderie developed with other volunteers who have become lifelong friends,” says Mark. “Whether in my business environment or the numerous competitive sports I still participate in, when the pressure is on, I can draw from the experience gained while racing at the levels I achieved. Racing and staying active in skiing not only keeps you fit and outdoors, it connects you to other like-minded people where bonds are formed for life. I met my wife Pamela as a direct result of the racing community, even though she raced and coached in Ontario. Now my daughter Rachel is engaged to Scott Lamacchia whom she met through ski racing about 10 years ago. Like our Bowman family the Lamacchia family grew up with a similar active outdoor mindset and now they too are set for life – How great is that!”
The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame and Alberta Alpine are pleased to recognize Mark Bowman, our 2018 Honoured Volunteer, whose passion for ski racing has crossed generations, inspired fellow volunteers and friends and ensured our clubs and race organizers have the essential tools to run accurate, safe and fun events.
The 2018 Class will be inducted at the Highest Peak Gala, hosted at the Hotel Arts in Calgary on Tuesday, October 30th. This event was first held in 1968, to support ski racing excellence in Alberta and western Canada. The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame event is a legacy event with the goal to support future champions in the province, with all proceeds invested into Alberta Ski Racing programs.