Early DFUG Meetings and ski locations were synonymous. That die was cast at the first very DFUG, held in January 1993, at Sunshine Village, Alberta Canada.
Sunshine Village is a somewhat unique ski resort. To begin, it’s located in a National Park, Banff National Park. That presents beauty and opportunities, and also challenges. To get to the “base area”, and our host hotel, one first needs to ride a gondola for 20 minutes, from a nondescript parking lot (at least it was in 1993) off the Trans Canada Highway and up into the Canadian Rocky Mountains. At the other end, exiting the gondola, one arrives, mid-mountain, at a central location with several chairlifts, services, beautiful skiing and the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. Idyllic.
In January 1993, we were fortunate to be joined by 12 attendees, from Toronto, New York State, and California. For the group from NY, air travel connections took them through O’Hare airport in Chicago and then on to Calgary. As “luck” would have it, O’Hare was experiencing an ice storm, delaying arrivals and departures. So they were late getting out of O’Hare, late getting in and out of Calgary and it was well after dark when they arrived in the Sunshine Village parking lot. But they had arrived.
Well, not really. The gondola ride to the lodge was still ahead. And given the travel delays and the current time, the gondola was now closed – until 8am the next morning. Ahhh. That’s not good. Well it is good if you are an entrepreneur with time and a snowmobile. Fortunately that entrepreneur was on-site, loaded the crew from NY and their luggage onto the snowmobile and shuttled them to the lodge. In the dark, at 11pm, in clear -25C weather. Still idyllic… for polar bears.
The plan for the first DFUG was to meet in the mornings, 9am to 1pm, adjourn for the afternoons, and then meet again in the evenings. And that’s what we did for 3 consecutive days. DataFax 2.X was in use, the operating system was SunOS and the desktop environment was SunView. We were talking about what was coming in DataFax 3, upgrading from SunOS to Solaris 2 and replacing the SunView user interface with OpenWindows. Features that were coming in DataFax 3 included: import external records, remember user preferences, create and fax QC reports, user-defined missing value codes and the pre-cursor to edit checks. Super exciting stuff and lots of great discussion.
During the afternoon, most attendees skied, taking advantage of above tree-line pistes and a few trails that straddled the Alberta and British Columbia border. It was still cold – I don’t remember it ever getting above -15C – and everyone had a great time. In the evening, we re-convened for more presentations and discussion. Except that some of the discussion was drowned out by the country rock band playing in the bar, one floor down. The Sunshine Mountain Lodge is quaint and cozy, and it’s not big. And most people come to enjoy skiing and the mountains. So the staff was a little surprised to learn that music in the evening could be heard in the meeting rooms – “we don’t use the meeting rooms after dinner”. Right, good laughs and lesson learned.
By the time DFUG concluded at 1pm on day three, we had shared stories about DataFax, created new memories and made new friends. Exactly what DFUG was intended to do, and still does today, 24 meetings later.