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Peepree Hill pops up from the past

Way back in January we innocently ran an old photograph of what we thought was Aberfoyle Ski Club. In very short order we received an avalanche of letters pointing out that it was not known as the Aberfoyle Ski Club, but rather Corwhin Ski Hill.
Among missives was a letter suggesting it was neither. It was the old ski hill at University of Guelph, we were told.
Here’s the letter: The photo “looks suspiciously like where my son and I took our first ski lessons on what was known at the time as ‘Mount Peepre’ in 1976 or 1977. We used to joke about Guelph’s ‘mountain.’ It was a small hill located behind the small animal clinic at the U of G.
“Ski lessons were given by university students on Saturday afternoons. Only people affiliated with the university were able to ski there. We were able to register because my brother-in-law worked at the U of G at the time and it was close to home.
“It was a good spot for someone’s first time on downhill skis. After our first lessons at the U of G we ‘graduated’ to Aberfoyle, which was called the Corwhin Ski Club. Corwhin had both a T-bar and a small chair lift, as well as a small chalet where one could sit by the fire and buy a hot drink to warm up.”
Maria Pinter
As it turns out, Ms. Pinter was wrong about our photo, but was right that the U of G had a ski hill. There was skiing at the university at Peepre Hill, as it was called. It was located in the Dairy Bush interior on the southeast corner of Edinburgh and College. There is a plaque at the top of the hill honouring the late Alex ‘Sass’ Peepre, the man behind the so-called mountain.
By several accounts, the Estonian-born athlete was a one-man physical education department at OAC prior to, during and after the founding of the University of Guelph. He was a champion of all sports.
According to Ann Stallmann, who worked with him when she was at the YM-YWCA, Peepre was also a man ahead of his time. He championed cross-country skiing well before it was commonplace. He also helped bring orienteering to Canada, although it hasn’t taken hold like cross-country skiing.
Also part of his legacy, Stallman recounted, he was picked for the Estonian Winter Olympics team. Not for the downhill ski team. Not for cross-country ski team. He was selected for Estonia’s ski jumping team. How’s that for diversification of one’s athletic abilities? Unfortunately, war cancelled the games.
“He was an awesome human being,” said Stallman of the man who has been honoured at many levels in many ways for his dedication to physical education.
Now I know there was a Corwhin Ski Hill and a Peepre Hill.
When I learned about this Peepre fellow, I thought it would be neat to visit the plaque in his honour. Too much snow back in January. More than two months later, there’s still too much snow.
Where’s that Peepre rope tow in a winter where you could really use it?   cclark@guelphtribune.ca

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