This year marks the 60th annual Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival. Started as a one-day loggers sports show in 1957, Squamish Days fills the BC Day Long Weekend with community cheer. But the history of Loggers Sports is bigger than one weekend in the summer.
The Festival is a celebration of the rich story of the forestry industry in Squamish, one of innovation and invention, forged from incredible hardships and challenge.
The Rich History of Forestry
Cultures Built with Logs
Timber extraction in the Sea to Sky began long before the first Europeans arrived. The Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) people used towering cedars to construct their longhouses, and carved dugout canoes out of single trees.
Evolution in the Industry
In the late 19th century, the majority of logging was done by horse or oxen, these overworked beasts pulling heavy logs on makeshift skid roads down to the Squamish River, where the wood floated down to the Howe Sound and was sorted for further transportation.
As technology advanced, so did the efficiency, range and scale of the logging shows. Steam donkeys (steam-powered winches) allowed for quicker yarding of logs, and eventually led to high lead logging, a system still used to this day.
Large-Scale Machinery and Logging
Large-scale logging got underway with the introduction of railroads, and tracks were built to access the forests around Brohm Lake, and the Garibaldi Highlands area.
Another major advancement was the rubber tired logging trucks of the 1940’s. Combined with diesel-belching cats pushing roads into unexplored valleys and untouched stands of old-growth timber, these changes ushered Squamish into a prosperous logging era that would shape the area forever.
The techniques of the loggers slowly evolved and adapted to this dynamic and incredibly dangerous environment, and changed with the technology.
Crosscut saw skills faded with the introduction of the chainsaw, and log-birling prowess was lost to the tugboats that drove huge booms of logs down waterways.
Mechanical towers called yarders negated the need for “high climbers”, those athletic daredevils that would climb, limb, and top towering trees to be used as spar poles.
Much has changed in the logging industry over the years, but the importance of having honed skills has not because having these abilities is what keeps forestry workers alive.
Loggers Sports Pays Homage
Showcasing the Skills
Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival has celebrated these forestry skills for 60 years.
The timed Tree Topping race pays homage to the dangerous and very skilled trade of the high climbers, while the Hand Bucking event highlights the crosscut saw, a timeless tool for falling trees and bucking logs.
Harold and Thor Halvorson, longtime Squamish locals, introduced the Obstacle Pole Buck to the Canadian Logger Sports lexicon in 1970.
It’s an event combining balance, chainsaw skills, and full out sprinting with said chainsaw in hand, and is a crowd favourite to this day.
Timber Queen and Beast Pageant
While the main Loggers Sports events have been showcased at Squamish Days for 60 years, there have been other crowd-favourite festival events.
The Timber Queen Beauty Pageant was a mainstay for many years, featuring lovely young ladies from the Squamish area.
The lesser-known Timber Beast Pageant was a shorter-running male-only pageant. This man-challenge was paired with a beard-growing contest, with prizes for fullest/longest, best groomed, and most unusual. As one could guess, both pageants (and the beard contest) aren’t featured in the 60th annual event this year.
Bicycle races in the form of short course criterium were introduced in the early 80’s, the spandex and road bikes a slight departure from the flannel and chainsaws of the Logger Sports grounds.
Bed Races and the history of Loggers Sports
Another unique Squamish Days event is the Bed Races. Just like it sounds, it’s a race, through obstacles, with beds (they’re on wheels).
Started in 1976, the event is a perennial crowd favourite.
Other lesser known events over the years include a watermelon eating contest, a demo derby, pajama shopping (deals at local businesses if you were wearing your pajamas), and a tug o’ war.
An Essential Squamish Experience
This rich history of technological advancement in the forests of BC underscores the importance of an event like the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival.
Time-honoured logging practices are celebrated here, traditions that played a large role in shaping the Sea to Sky.
The logger sports events are a thrill to witness, as men and women compete at the highest level in front of a raucous crowd.
For 60 years Squamish Days has paid tribute to the athleticism and fine craft of loggers sports and celebrated the community that has helped to shape this area.
We found some video published by the Squamish Historical Society. Enjoy!