Valley Lives - Hans Weber

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the June 03, 2009 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Nakkertok will never forget mountaineer, skier, polite note writer

by Mark Burgess

From the peak of Baffin Island's Mount Asgard to the cross-country ski trails of the Gatineau Hills, Hans Weber, who died May 25, blazed new trails for the benefit of others.

The 84-year-old Weber was born in Thun, Switzerland. He came to Canada in 1953 as part of the Arctic Institute of North America's team of 13 Swiss and Canadian researchers exploring Baffin Island's Penny Ice Cap.

Valley Lives
Weber at Yukon's Centennial Peak base camp in 1967. Weber was part of a team of four that reached the 3,820 metre peak. Photo courtesy of Christoph Weber.

Weber brought his skills not only as a scientist and mountaineer but also as the crew's documentarian, creating 40 minutes of 16-mm film that stands as a valuable record of early Arctic research.

After the expedition Weber stayed in Canada, earning his PhD in physics from the University of Alberta and marrying his wife, Meg, whom he met in an avalanche in Alberta's Yoho National Park.

After graduating, Weber joined the Geological Survey of Canada and moved first to Chelsea and then Cantley

"Hans didn't really like cities." Meg Weber said. The family bought a small farm in Cantley that soon became eastern Canada's cross-country ski hub.

"He liked his little corner here, that's for sure," Weber's son Richard said.

Weber was a founding member of the Nakkertok Nordic Ski Club, which now enjoys one of the nation's top rankings. With the support of other enthusiasts, Weber created a web of trails beginning from his farm that eventually spread over hundreds of acres.

"He started the club and hosted it on his own property for years and years," said Dirk van Wijk, who competed at the world juniors with Richard Weber.

Van Wijk recently purchased 300 acres of the Weber's land in order to preserve and continue the Nakkertok tradition.

"There are literally thousands of Nakkertok members who know Hans as a father figure," said Jim Bradford, a former president of the club.

"The club is one of the best known in the country because Hans started it right in the first place." .

Bradford remembers Weber as a deadpan humourist who "always had an obscure tool" and who used his engineering skills to found an illuminated trail for night skiing.

"He was one of the original environmentalists."

Weber was the chief scientist for two major surveys of the Arctic Ocean's submerged mountain chains. LOREX, in 1979, explored the Lomonosov Ridge and CESAR, in 1983, studied the Alpha Ridge from Ellesmere Island to the Siberian Continental Shelf.

The CESAR survey has important implications for Canada's current territorial claims in the Arctic.

"I don't think he had any concept of what he had done over the years," Meg said. "He didn't blow his own trumpet."

Bradford also remembers Weber's humble attitude and consideration for those around him, particularly those whose land he used for skiing.

"Hans and Meg always wrote thank you notes," he said. "They were about family and good manners, which you don't always associate with sport."

Hans and Meg Weber had three sons - Christoph, 54, of Chelsea, Richard, 49, of Alcove, and Adrian, who died in 2000 at 38.

Weber died at the Ottawa Hospital on May 25 after suffering a stroke.

Tributes to Hans Weber can be read on the Nakkertok club's website at http://english.nakkertok.ca.

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