Former Olympian Nancy Greene passes the flame to next generation

February 22, 2010

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Sun Peaks Resort is a feature chapter in our best-selling guide book Best Weekend Getaways from Vancouver. Here’s why.

Nancy Greene wears so many mantles it’s a challenge to tally them all: world-champion skier, Olympian, hotelier, university chancellor, senator.

The woman nicknamed “Tiger” could also just as easily be dubbed “coach”, especially by those who tag along on one of the daily mountain tours she offers visitors to her home at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops. She has been the director of skiing there since relocating to the Thompson Plateau from Whistler in the early 1990s.

As we discovered during a recent trip to Sun Peaks, the 66-year-old wants everyone to shine on the slopes just as brightly as she has since her first appearance on the international racing scene at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, when she was 17.

Greene doesn’t simply lead a tour; she coaches as she goes, offering gentle encouragement as the group speeds along. “Relax your arms. Let your poles hang loose. Remember to stand on the balls of your feet and push with the metatarsal bone just below your big toe. Feel how it helps your skis carve.”

Yikes! How many other athletes of this stature would turn a casual get-together into a two-hour skills clinic?

Yet this is something Greene has offered free of charge year in, year out, wherever she goes and whomever she skis with.

The trick is keeping up with her.

This is one skier who knows how to milk every drop of speed from her turns—except when she’s racing with kids, that is. “My boy will remember beating an Olympic gold medallist for the rest of his life,” one proud father enthused.

Honorary chair of the Nancy Greene Ski League—Alpine Canada’s grassroots ski program for youngsters—Greene takes obvious pride in nurturing a passion for skiing that downplays winning in favour of encouraging a love of sport.

“We held an open house here last fall and signed up six new families,” the ever-youthful grandmother said, beaming.

As if to demonstrate that she can ignite enthusiasm through sheer desire, Greene beckoned to two half-pints who were standing in awe nearby. “Do you guys want to see a snow cave? Follow me.” With the helmeted tykes in tow, she ducked into a grove of snow-encrusted trees through an opening just large enough to accommodate the trio. Looking back, she flashed a triumphant smile.

When asked what role she played in helping Vancouver win the right to host the 2010 Winter Games, Greene said that as a member of the bid committee she lobbied for the yes side in the civic referendum.

“I did a little commercial about growing up in Rossland and going to the Olympics. When I added it up, even if we didn’t win the bid, we’d still be getting…plans for upgrades to the Sea-to-Sky Highway and building the  Canada Line. Historically, under the equalization program we’re always sending dollars to Ottawa. This is the first time B.C. ever got a swack of money back from the feds. Plus, even if you don’t care about sport, holding international events creates pride. There are intangibles in this world that count, and pride in your country is one of them.”

For the past three decades, Greene’s sense of pride in performance has been further enhanced by managing boutique hotels with her husband, Al Raine, first at Whistler and now at Sun Peaks.

“Al and I have worked and stayed at enough hotels in Europe to know what you have to do right,” she said.

Last June, she agreed to become a spokesperson for the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council.

She described her role as encouraging work and professionalism in the tourism sector.

“As a young person, if you’re unsure of your future, get a job in the hospitality industry to learn what it’s like to work a small business. You don’t make as much money in tourism, but it’s an entry into the work force. These are very valid jobs where you actually learn how to work. Plus, it can be fun. One of the young Australians here at Sun Peaks told me how much she likes her job because she gets to ski on the way home!”

In the contagious spirit of the 2010 Winter Games, this February 12 to 28, Sun Peaks Resort invites everyone to be an Olympian, at least in their dreams.

Although the action at the Vancouver and Whistler venues will be as serious as a heart attack, revelry knows no bounds at this triple-mountain complex.

From the creative minds who added snowshoe golf to B.C.’s winter-sports vocabulary come two new demonstration sports: Nerf-ball biathlon action and an extreme-speed event, tube luge. Trophies will be as highly prized by the winners as any medals listed on the resort’s podium-count board, where Canadian athletes’ accomplishments, together with those of the top five nations, will be regularly updated.

To fully appreciate what makes an Olympic medal special, drop by Nancy Greene’s Cahilty Lodge to check out her impressive trophy stash.

If she’s home from her full-time job as a senator in Ottawa or acting as Canada’s official Olympic ambassador, Greene will likely offer to hang her gold one around your neck.

Talk about a priceless bonus.

Access: For information on Sun Peaks Resort, visit www.sunpeaksresort.com/. For more on Nancy Greene, visit www.nancygreene.com/.

Original Article
Text Cr Jack Christie
Photo CR Louise Christie