With a little luck and some good timing, this year's Squamish Days Loggers' Sports event could draw the best class of competitors ever to grace the field as they chop, saw, and speed climb their way to victory and some of the $30,000 in prize money.
This is not an event for the faint of heart, and competitors come to Squamish from all over the world to prove their strength, bravery and stamina.
On July 31 and Aug. 1, novices, intermediate and professional loggers sports competitors will descend on Squamish from all over North America, and from as far away as Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, Czechoslovakia and Germany.
And thanks to a schedule this year offsetting Squamish Days from the other richest Loggers Sports competition in the world - Hayward, Winsconsin -the pool of talent may well be the best ever, said Squamish Days Loggers Sports president Bryan Couture.
"Jason Wynyrad is one of the best in the world. David Bolstead has been talking about it. These are the top guys in the world. If we can get them here, that would be incredible. People will never believe the condition and talent these guys have," said Couture.
Both of the top level competitors are Kiwis.
Wynyard has been the winner of the Lumberjack World Championships for 10 years, and the STIHL Timbersports Champion eight times, including the 2009 championships. The right-hander who chops as a leftie is looking to gain another title in 2010.
Bolstead is the current US Stihl Timbersports Champion, he currently holds 50 world championships, 15 world records and 27 national records.
The pool of talent may also extend to new blood, said Couture.
"Because of our going to Europe all the time and competing over there, we've created a whole new competitor list and we've got, like, Czechoslovakia and Germany, they're all top axmen now and we're trying to get them over here and get them to see the Canadian shows.
"That's a whole new world over there now."
Longtime event secretary Debbie Patterson said several international competitors are coming for the Squamish events because they are followed soon after by the STIHL Timbersports show in Oregon.
Patterson, who sets up her house as a dormitory for the international axe-wielding attendees, is already preparing for a handful of competitors from the Southern Hemisphere.
"A few years ago, I had 17 [competitors]," said Patterson.
"Every bedroom in my house was used and there was even a tent in the backyard. As you can imagine, I didn't want or need any more guests, invited or not, so I made a sign saying 'New Zealand and Australian axeman's dormitory - no unauthorized guests!'"
Jesper Witzke is another high level athlete from Copenhagen, and is returning to Squamish to compete for his twelfth time. Witzke is competing in the wood chop, hand buck, and some powersaw events. Witzke has been competing in Squamish since 1992 and is certainly one competitor to watch. He boasts great success in Danish, Scandinavian, and Canadian championship events, and says he loves to come to Canada for Logger's Sports because it is a "wonderful place for a holiday with the family."
Hailing from Lake Oswego, Oregon, Brian Bartow is going to be competing in the 80-foot climb, tree topping, and birling.
In 2009, Bartow won the Canadian Open chokerman's race, and placed second in tree topping and the open climb.
But there are also numerous competitors who call Squamish home.
Jacqulin McNichol is a local competitor who is also one of the behind-the-scenes event organizers.
"This will be my fourth year competing," said McNichol. "I wouldn't miss it for anything."
Between tracking down a truckload of alder and deciding which events to sign up for, McNichol shares her passion for Loggers Sports and the positivity it brings to B.C.'s logging industry.
"The forest industry has always taken a lot of criticism, especially in smaller towns. It's nice to see the festival shedding some positive light on an industry that so many, including myself, still depend on for their livelihood," she said.
McNichol will likely be competing in birling, underhand chop, axe throw, double buck, and ladies' triple.
Eight-time world champion Wade Stewart of Nanoose Bay, B.C., runs a tree service operation in the winter, but travels to compete in Loggers Sports competitions and exhibitions all summer.
He won the 2009 tree topping world championship, and placed second in the 2009 birling competition, and the Canadian championship open chokerman's race event.
He is signed up for a number of events, focusing on the 80-foot climb, tree topping, and birling. He's in for some serious competition against another B.C. local, Stirling Hart, in the speed-climb event.
Hart is another young B.C.-grown logger with a knack for climbing trees, fast. He won the speed-climbing event in Squamish last year, and is aiming for another victory.
"I have high expectations for myself this year with all the training," he said.
In 2009, Hart completed an 80-foot climb in 18.7 seconds. He says he hopes to break Stewart's Squamish record of 18.1 seconds.
Hart says he enjoys competing at the Al McIntosh show grounds because "no other show in the world takes as much pride in their grounds as Squamish."
The personable young man says he plans to compete in pretty much everything. That includes the world championship tree climb, world championship tree topping, world championship butcher block, Canadian championship springboard, Canadian championship log rolling, obstacle pole bucking, underhand chop, and power saw tree falling.
Loggers Sports are a family affair for the Harts. Stirling's father Greg performs the treetop clown act, and is also competing in world championship tree topping. The event promises to be a treat for those looking to witness some friendly family rivalry. They work as a team at times, and in 2007, three generations of Harts, including Stirling's grandfather Gord, competed together in the three-man butcher block chop.
Some more families to look out for include the Bischoffs, from Celista, B.C., the Stewards, from Chetwynd, B.C., the Moses, from Fall City and Snoqualmie, Washington, and the Sirguys, from Port Angeles, Washington.
Judging by the roster for the upcoming event, the 2010 show is not to be missed. The return of a number of crowd favorites guarantees two jam-packed days. Get ready to see the woodchips fly at the Al McIntosh Loggers Sports grounds on Loggers Lane from July 29 to Aug. 1, and bring your family, but no pets. For more information, go to www.squamishdays.ca to read up on all things Loggers Sports.
Patterson said that those interested in learning or competing in Loggers Sports can stop by the Al McIntosh show grounds in the evening to talk to organizers.
Those wanting to get in touch with a suitable coach can reach her through the Squamish Days website, www.squamishdays.ca.
But be warned, novices will be asked about their ability during sign-up for the Squamish event.
"I don't want injuries," said Patterson.
All competitors must also sign a liability waiver, and must adhere to strict rules set by the Canadian Logger's Sports Association.
- With files from Sylvie Paillard