Louis Emile Cochand died on July 17, 2011 at the age of 94. A leader and top competitor in the second generation of organized Canadian skiing, Cochand was born into the most famous family of racing and resort-building in Quebec’s Laurentians.
Louis was the son of Swiss ski instructor Emile Cochand, who arrived in Canada in 1911 as the first accredited instructor in Canada. Emile had been offering lessons for 16 years by the time Otto Schniebs immigrated from Germany in 1927 to become the first certified instructor in the United States. In 1914, Emile gave the Laurentians another head start by founding the first stand-alone ski resort in North America, Chalet Cochand. It was a simple family summer place some 15 miles south of Ste. Marguerite until Emile rebuilt it into a winter inn and ski school, bringing in his guests by horse-drawn sleigh in the absence of plows.
Louis was born in 1917 in the third year of Chalet Cochand’s operation. The inn had no insulation, no running water, no heat other than its fireplaces, and no light except its oil lanterns. His father began teaching little Louis to ski on barrel staves at the age of three. Louis capitalized on his birthright by competing and winning junior Nordic events. As alpine competition became more important, he served notice on adult competitors by winning Canada’s 1933 Flying Kilometer speed-skiing event—at age 16.
From there, he won the slalom in the 1936 Quebec Kandahar at age 18—effectively the national championship; he also took second in the downhill. And he did this despite the scant training time he could take from his duties as the second-oldest male in the family at Chalet Cochand. Louis compiled a lifetime Kandahar record of five firsts, three seconds, and two third places in open competition. Meanwhile, he was the manager and later owner-manager of the Chalet Cochand for 20 years, where he installed Canada’s first overhead cable lift, a J-bar, in 1936, and Canada’s first double chair in 1958.
He served as president of the Laurentian Ski Resorts Association for ten years. He also served as the Canadian Ski Association’s chief examiner for instructors’ certification, and during that time he drafted the first Canadian Ski Association instruction manual. In 1940, at age 23, he became the first president of the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Association. He took the job again in 1947 after serving five years as a fighter pilot in the Canadian Air Force during World War II.
Louis Cochand will remain a leader, with his name written large in North American ski history. A private celebration of his life was held in July. Donations in his memory can be made to the Canadian Ski Museum (www.skimuseum.ca), where both he and his father are honored members of the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame. —Morten Lund
Photo: Louis and Morna Cochand with the Wurtele twins, Rhoda and Rhona. 1948.