There is a picture of a very young Stirling Hart — he was likely three or four years old — climbing a pole at Squamish’s Loggers' Sports in the early 1990s.
The sport has been in the 34-year-old’s blood since before he was born.
His grandfather Gordon Hart was a Canadian champion axeman, and his dad, Greg Hart, was a world champion speed climber.
His father also performed locally at loggers' sports shows as Ramblin’ Jesse Elliot.
“I’ve been coming here since I was in the womb and been here every year since,” Hart told The Squamish Chief in 2015 when he took over the character for his father for a time.
It was an endurance-style event, with competitors racing through four disciplines.
It involves running between cutting one disc of wood with a stock chain saw, to an underhand block chop — cutting through a 12-inch piece of log that is positioned between the athlete’s feet — the single buck, which is cutting a single disc with a cross-cut saw, and finally a standing, or vertical chop.
Hart noted that all the events at this competition will be displayed at the upcoming Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival from Aug. 3 to 6.
The Canada Day competition, his fourth Canadian Trophy win, was heavily impacted by wildfire smoke from blazes that had been raging.
Ontario has been hard hit by wildfires this year, reporting three times the number of fires as last year.
“Feels like you smoked a pack a day for 60 years,” Hart said, of competing in the humid and smoky conditions.
This win was a bit of a comeback for Hart.
With COVID and taking time to recharge, it had been a few years since he competed.
“So, I was a little bit nervous going in,” he said, noting as he gets older, he feels the impact of competing more physically.
“In that event, you get nervous because it actually does really hurt,” he said, with a chuckle. “It is so much work — you know that you’re going to be in some physical pain very shortly. So you get nervous. It’s kind of like going for a shot at the doctor, I guess.”
His success in the qualifying rounds the day before gave him a confidence boost for the actual competition on July 1, he said, and then his experience kicked in.
Hart has won more timbersports competitions than even he can likely count, including in 2018 when he earned the Champions Trophy of the STIHL Timbersports Series, in Marseille, France.
The first gold medal in the history of the sport for Canada.
Hart in Squamish
Hart never misses a chance to sing the praises of Squamish and the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival. He will be there doing a variety of things, he said.
“It just it’s such a great event. It’s the best show grounds anywhere in the world. And it’s one of the best run shows anywhere in the world that I’ve been to. And it’s really helped the sport continue to thrive,” he said.
As for Squamish, he said the number of elite athletes and atmosphere of support has been a boon for him, personally.
“There’s all these places to train all these support groups and people who want to be active and have that competitive mindset — and they really want to build people up, not tear them down,” he said. “It’s a super supportive community, and being able to be around that’s really allowed me to have success in the last few years.”
To say in tip-top competition shape, Hart says he eats well and works out at Squamish Barbell, which helps. But he has found the very best exercise to train for the competition is his day job.
Hart owns Alpine Axe Forestry Ltd, working out of Whistler and area.
“In 2018, I fully [attribute] my win at the world's to that. We're working in a very, very steep section of creek sides, and so it’s up the hill, down the hill, up the hill,” he said.
“Funny in a roundabout way that it turns out that logging is actually very good training for logger sports.
What is next?
After Squamish Days, Hart will be competing at the 2023 Pro Championship on Aug. 12 in Chilliwack.
This is the first time it has been held this close to his current home, and to his birthplace of Maple Ridge.
One of the reasons he wanted to come back and compete again after his time off was so his grandparents, who are in their 80s, could watch live, he said.
“That’s actually how I got into the sport was through my grandparents and my parents. And so my grandparents have always wanted to watch me compete, but it’s always been across the country ... So I thought it’d be kind of cool cause it is this close and it’s never the finals are never out west here.”
As for his longer-term plans, Hart said he will go where his passion for the sport and competitive drive takes him.
He also enjoys training up-and-comers, coaching and helping organize behind the scenes, he said.