Retired Kelowna engineer aiming for Dummy Downhill glory

Trent James has built a remote-control operated skier he hopes can win next spring's fun event at the ski hill.

Trent James with his creation

Trent James watched the Dummy Downhill race at Big White this year and thought to himself, “I could do that.”

By that, he meant build an object to slide downhill as fast as possible, flip into the air and land. After all, there are prizes at stake.

So the retired Kelowna engineer got to work. And the result was Geezer, a wooden contraption on skies that looks a lot like the skeleton of a man riding a sawhorse. The (saw) horse has a head, perked-up ears, a long round face, a tail and the sawhorse body. The skeleton man riding the horse, has a head, complete with toque, ski goggles, flowing white mop-head hair and articulating legs that bend at the knees. He is in a crouch position with each leg attached to a motor controlled by a wireless controller scavenged from a  toy car.

James, 76, and members of his “posse”—a group of other old guys ranging in age from 66 to 80—are determined to win next year’s Dummy Downhill so they’ve started early with their entry. And they are taking it seriously.

With Geezer complete, the group took to Kelowna’s City Park on Thursday for a little of what James called “dry land testing.”

With three of the posse at a time pulling the contraption around a curving 200-metre course set up on the grass field in the park, complete with gates and sweeping turns, the determined group of geriatric innovators tied themselves to Geezer and ran as hard as they could while the wife of one their number timed them.

“That went pretty well,” gasped James after the first run, completed in just over one minute and five seconds.

While three men at a time ran and pulled, a fourth man, Jim Higa operated the controller that mimics a skier’s action when sliding downhill. Weight on one leg to turn one way, weight on the other to turn the other way.

For the City Park testing, he ran behind Geezer to see where he needed to turn to make it through each course gate.

For added incentive, a gate judge added a time penalty if Geezer failed to make it through a gate.

James said he wasn’t sure how Geezer would respond on grass instead of snow, but following the first few runs said it seemed to go well.

Of course any endeavour requiring a group of older men—albeit fit older men—to run 200 metres pulling heavy wooden object behind them is unlikely to  go off without a hitch.

The second run had to be aborted just metres from the finish line when one of the runners cramped up.

“Probably would have been a good idea to stretch first,” he said the as he hobbled back to the group.

But all in all, James and his friends seemed happy with how Geezer performed on his first day out of the workshop.

Despite that, however, James said more testing will be be done prior to letting him loose on the slopes of Big White next spring.

“I think he has pretty good form,” he said with a smile.