Sixty-five years ago today the world's best ski jumpers were in East Vancouver launching over Empire Stadium in a uniquely odd event that to this day holds a special place in local sports lore.
The May 3, 1958 Centennial Ski Jumping Invitational featured a precariously tall and narrow tower of scaffolding and ice erected over the north end of the stadium. Looking at archive photos today, it seems a marvel no one died.
"I don't think there's a weirder event than this one," said B.C. Sports Hall of Fame curator Jason Beck.
"The craziest thing is the extent they had to go to to stage it because they obviously didn't have a hill. So they built this scaffolding 165 feet tall. I've been told it actually swayed in the wind."
The spectacle was conceived by a committee charged with organizing events to celebrate British Columbia's 100th anniversary.
According to Beck, tonnes of ice was brought in, crushed and spread on the ramp and landing area near centre field.
Vancouver was hardly a ski jumping hub in 1958, but fans flocked to the city by the thousands to take in the competition.
Sadly for organizers, most avoided buying a ticket, opting instead to watch the high fliers for free from rooftops and streets in the Vancouver Heights neighbourhood east of the stadium, rendering the four-day competition a financial flop.
"They had decent [paying] crowds but what they didn't take into account was that you could sit outside the stadium on the hill in East Vancouver and see the entire thing because the event towered above Empire Stadium," said Beck.
"My favourite line about it is from Jim Kearney who wrote for the Vancouver Sun. He estimated there were over 100,000 people watching from outside the stadium so he called it a 'Canadian record for freeloading.'"
World champion Juhani Kärkinen of Finland won the gold medal but never had the chance to defend the title as 1958 remains the first and only time Vancouver hosted an international ski jumping competition.
"It's another little part of the amazing history of Empire Stadium," said Beck.
"Not only did it have the B.C. Lions and Whitecaps, the Miracle Mile, Harry Jerome ran there, The Beatles and Elvis, but there was this crazy ski jumping event held there too."