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Valley Lives - Andy Tommy

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the August 04, 2004 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Andy Tommy-last of 'Big Three' ends era

by Bob Mellor

The last of the "Big Three" who built recreational skiing into an industry in the Gatineau Hills passed away on Aug. 2 when Andy Tommy died at the age of 71. He was the last of the icons. It was the end of an era that spanned half a century.

The other men considered to be the fathers of the ski industry in the Gatineau, John Clifford and Steve Saunders, predeceased him several years ago. Oddly, the careers of the three were intertwined, although they ended up as competitors.

Valley Lives
Andy Tommy (file photo).

Andy was best-known as the spokesman and manager of Edelweiss, the ski area he developed in conjunction with brother Art and partner Reg Lefebvre, in the very early 1960s, both of whom have now passed on.

Not to be overlooked however, is the successful Tommy & Lefebvre sporting goods retail chain which the same group started, and which continues to this day as a successful enterprise.

Skiers of the Gatineau Hills owe much to the "Big Three", and the people around them.

While Andy - the Canadian ski champion of 1950 - along with brother Art was competing for Canada in the Olympics in 1956, and Andy coached the Olympic team of 1960, Clifford and Saunders were back home laying the foundations of towed-uphill skiing at longgone sites such as Beamish Hill, Dome Hill, and the one that was to last - Camp Fortune.

During that time, Andy Tommy had endured six broken legs in his competitive career - when racers lashed their boots to their skis with leather thongs known as "Ianieres'. In a crash, there was no release. The skis didn't come off. Small wonder that he didn't look to other areas of the ski business.

Saunders and Clifford parted company, but when Tommy and his partners began to develop Edelweiss, it was Saunders they called in to help bulldoze the runs, and build the original lifts. Saunders later moved on to build the Vorlage area in Wakefield.

SUCCESS

Edelweiss was a success for many years, although its financial fortunes faded in the late 90s and the family sold it to Mont St. Sauveur International in 2000, while retaining the golf course they had added to the resort.

Andy, Art and younger brother Fred were the sons of an Ottawa Rough Rider icon, Andy Tommy Sr., who died in 1972 at the age of 61. Art died in 1994 at 60 and Fred passed away last February at 62. Their mother, Helen Bailie Tommy, survives.

Andy died four days after triple-bypass surgery at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Andy is survived by his wife of 47 years, Marion Dunning, and his children Sarah, Randy, Lisa and Michael, and seven grandchildren.


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