Name: Bill Sproul
Location: Nelson, British Columbia
Born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1951, Bill Sproul moved to the small town of Nelson, British Columbia when he was 11 years old and never found a reason to leave. Over the last 50 years Bill has held nearly every skiing job interior B.C. has to offer, and has become a local legend to the sleepy ski town tucked deep in the Selkirk Mountains.
"He was kind of like a father figure for this local ski scene," said Bill Heath, a Nelson-based ski cinematographer who featured several shots of Sproul in his cult classic Ski Your Ass Off. "He was always very generous with his time teaching people how to ski. He's still like that. Young or old, he just wants to help people enjoy skiing."
Bill Sproul has worked as a ski instructor, patroller, heli skiing guide, ski shop owner, and was part of the original crew that helped develop Whitewater Ski Area just outside of Nelson, even getting a run named after himself, Sproulers, a double black diamond, powder-filled tree run on the edge of the mountain. These days, he can be found on the hill skiing every day from nine until noon, getting back to the office in the afternoon to work as a self-employed land surveyor.
I took a liking to a girl that lived just up the street, she was a skier. I had never skied, I was a hockey player from Saskatchewan. We went to Silver King, a ski hill outside Nelson. She takes off and heads down the main run and is gone in an instant. I'm left at the top looking around thinking, how do I even turn? After negotiating my way to the bottom, I came around the last corner, giving myself a pat on the back because I had gotten to the bottom, when lo and behold there was a fallen log across the trail. I had three choices: try and figure out how to turn, try and figure out how to stop, or eat the log. But I found a fourth alternative, I dove over the log and ended up in a big pile of wreckage in the trees. When I collected myself, I had a big grin on my face and powder everywhere and thought, 'That's probably the most fun I've ever had in my life.'
I became enamored with the ski instructors and their ability to turn skis. Being a broke student finishing high school and going to university I needed a way to feed my habit, so I became a ski instructor and worked on the ski patrol.
When I got a break from instructing, I would sneak off and go to a secret stash I had that was out of bounds. Even a week or two after a good snowfall, I could always find some fresh stashes. I would always come back with powder in my beard, and all the guys would say 'oh, Sprouler's been in heaven again,' and in the early days it was known as Sprouler's Heaven, which got shortened to Sprouler's when it became an inbounds run.
I wonder the same thing today that I did growing up, how to make some money. I've had a great life, but it'd be nice to have some money in the bank when a guy retires. But I think I've got enough smiles on my face that I can put up with it.
Don't lose track of why you ski. Don't get wrapped up in all of the hype. Ski for the reason that you ski. For the freedom and the ability to have access to nature, and the face shots. All your problems disappear as soon as you click into your skis.
I'm a grandpa now, and I'm skiing with grandkids, so that's the next big challenge now. It's getting that next generation out and growing up skiing. One of the thrills I had with my kids was taking them cat skiing. It was amazing to take them into terrain that I used to work in, and show them what that whole lifestyle is all about.
I never expected to be skiing this long. My dad was an engineer, and the old school mentality was you go to university and you get your university degree and education. It was kind of expected that I would be an engineer and continue on that line. At 17 years old, I discovered skiing and that was the end of that.