Murray, 34, is now director of skiing at Whistler Mountain in British Columbia, where he grew up. He started racing late—at 15—and was the only one of the Crazy Canucks who never won a World Cup downhill. "Murray was the most intellectual of the group," says Patrick Lang, a Swiss skiing writer. "In my opinion that was why he never won. He was a Crazy Canuck, but maybe he was not crazy enough. At Chamonix in 1978 he was winning the training runs by two seconds, but on race day he couldn't do it. Ken Read won."
"It's a very subtle sport," says Murray, the red hair that once flowed from under his racing helmet was now cut short. "The difference between first and second can be many different things. It can be a wind that blew in your face, or a wax, or you slid your tails just the slightest bit on a turn, or you stood up a little high."
Or you can be shaped wrong. Murray was more angular than his teammates, and his shoulders were a bit broader. The ideal downhiller is, like Irwin, pear-shaped, hugely muscled in the butt and thighs to better absorb the shocks of traversing the bumpy hillside at high speed, and, like Read, slight in the shoulders and upper arms to slice through the wall of onrushing air. "I have the theory that Ken's body is the most aerodynamic of all of ours," says Murray. "If you look at him, he has narrower shoulders and a really rounded back. That's what you need at speeds of, say, 70 or 80 miles per hour. He would slip through the air much more easily. I'd always be working to get my shoulders crunched in tight."
Read, now 32 and an Olympic skiing commentator for CBC, won five World Cup downhills between 1975 and '80. He won a sixth, at Morzine, France, in '79, but was later disqualified when his newfangled racing suit was ruled illegal because it didn't meet the FIS's permeability standard. "Ken's main attribute was that he was completely and overwhelmingly dedicated to the sport, and he would go absolutely nuts out on the course," says Murray. "And although technically I wouldn't put him in the same class with Steve Podborski, he made up for it in sheer bravado. I mean, everybody was trying his hardest, but somehow Ken would be able to just let it hang out."
When Read won at Schladming in December 1978, Charlie Kahr, the Austrian coach known as Downhill Charlie, said, "Ken Read skied faster than he could ski."
Read's best year was 1980, when he won back-to-back downhills at Kitzbühel and Wengen. He was a favorite going into the downhill at the Lake Placid Olympics, but 15 seconds into the race one of his skis came off. Podborski, however, earned the bronze, which made him the only Canadian Olympic medalist in a men's Alpine event.
Podborski, the most successful of the Canucks, grew up in Don Mills, a suburb of Toronto, where the highest hills are only 500 feet. "I should never have been a ski racer, especially not a downhiller," he says. Pod made his way through local and regional competitions and at 15 was invited to the national team's summer camp at Whistler Mountain. After winning a race or two there, he was invited to attend a team selection camp.
"I won all the downhills, did really well in the slalom and not too bad in the giant slalom, and they put me on the team," says Podborski. "It was a miracle. There I was, on the national team at 16. I was totally ignorant. When I first got to the World Cup races I didn't know why there were fences around the course. I'd never raced where they needed to keep people back."
After two top 10 finishes in his first World Cup season. Podborski wrecked a knee 10 days before the 1976 Olympics at Innsbruck. "Two of the four major ligaments were totally ruptured," he says. "The thing was, I'd never been hurt in my life. I was 18 years old, and I'd just blown the Olympics. They sent me home to get my knee operated on. and I got to the hospital on a Sunday. On Monday my parents, who didn't know I was hurt, arrived in Innsbruck to watch me ski. I'd blown it for them, too. It was devastating. I went into the depths of depression. One day I was alone with the dog, and I just lay in bed and stared at the ceiling. I made up my mind I would never again go over to Europe knowing I hadn't trained as much as I could."
Podborski's first victory was a tainted one. When Read was disqualified at Morzine because of his illegal racing suit, Podborski, who had finished second, was awarded the win. Finally, at St. Moritz in 1980, he won fair and square. He triumphed in three World Cup downhills that year and came close to winning the overall downhill championship. The next year he won three more downhills and did get the overall title. He retired in '84.