Tag Archives: Nancy Greene Raine

Celebrating Peak Chair’s 30th Birthday

To most non-advanced skiers Whistler’s Peak was completely inaccessible before 1986.

No panoramic view, no glimpse of the vast expanse of Garibaldi Park and no feeling of being on top of the entire mountain.  This past month marked the 30th anniversary of the Peak Chair opening on Whistler Mountain.  In 1986, the 1,000-metre lift was imported from Grand Junction, Colorado, at a cost of $900,000, costing $1.48 million overall.

Since 1980, Whistler Mountain had been struggling to make ends meet and part of the strategy behind adding the new lift was to broaden the appeal of Whistler to Lower Mainland skiers.  Additionally, Whistler Mountain intended to keep pace with Blackcomb Mountain, which had opened their new T-Bar System and 7th Heaven in the high alpine in 1985.  Just a year later, Whistler Mountain countered this opening of new high alpine terrain with their opening of the Peak Chair on December 22, 1986.

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The first poster advertising the new Peak Chair.

The official opening of the Peak Chair was attended by a few big names: Premier Bill Vander Zalm, Mayor Drew Meredith, Female Athlete of the 20th Century Nancy Greene-Raine, Mount Everest climber Sharon Wood, Whistler Mountain president Lorne Borgal and the event’s master of ceremonies Jim McConkey.

“For years, people have been climbing and skiing off the peak and hiking to the peak in summer,” said Nancy Greene-Raine in the original December 24, 1986 Whistler Question article.  “It’s wonderful that now they’ll be able to ride p and ski it, with a little caution.”

The mayor cracked a joke at the idea of quick access to all those steep new runs: “I think this is something Lorne dreamed up while riding the Scream Machine at Expo (’86) last summer.”

As we know well today, there are some intense line choices available from Whistler’s Peak, some having gained legendary status in this town, like the cliff drop visible from Peak Chair known as “Air Jordan” and the Peak to Creek run, the longest groomer in North America at 5.5 km.

The chair was first opened only to advanced skiers due to the steepness of the terrain and the early season rock hazards.  More than 70 skiers eagerly awaited the opening of the chair that day.  Unfortunately, intermediate and beginner skiers still missed out on most of the runs coming down from the Peak; the only run accessible for non-advanced skiers was aptly named “Last Chance”.

Today we take for granted the opportunity to zip up to Whistler’s peak as easily as taking a seat on a chair.  Give a brief pause to take in the stunning panoramic vistas when you’re up on Whistler’s peak this winter, and perhaps remember the work that went into making those views possible for every skier and snowboarder to experience without a treacherous hike up.

The Nancy Greene-Raine Connection

We recently announced our upcoming Speaker Series on May 6th, celebrating 50 years of summer camps. The inclusion of Nancy Greene-Raine on the speaking panel quickly made it apparent that, although we have decent coverage of her husband Al Raine’s contributions to Whistler on this blog (plus here), up until now, Nancy’s presence is notably lacking. This blog post will start to fix that problem.

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Though Nancy was born in Ottawa, grew up in the Kootenay ski haven of Rossland, BC with its historic Red Mountain Resort, and has lived in Sun Peaks for roughly two decades, her connection and contributions to Whistler remain strong.

Nancy, of course, is one of the most recognized and celebrated Canadian athletes of all-time, regardless of discipline, even earning the title of Canadian Female Athlete of the Century!  She was the most dominant female ski racer of the 1960s, earning 13 World Cup victories, 2 overall world titles, and her gold medal (and silver, all while battling a severe ankle injury) performance at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics, alongside French legend Jean-Claude Killy, is the stuff of legend.

Here’s a complete run-down of her ski-racing accomplishments. 

 

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1969 Toni Sailer Summer Camp staff. Nancy is front row, 2nd from left, Toni Sailer is back row, 2nd from right, both wearing cowboy hats.

Nancy retired at the top of her field and a global celebrity after her dominant 1968 season. Retirement from ski racing was no permanent vacation, as the pervious winter she had already launched her Nancy Greene Ski League, Canada’s national, grassroots-level ski racing program. In the nearly 50 years of operation, virtually every single Canadian ski racer of note, from Steve Podborski to Ashleigh McIvoor, and countless thousands of others, started competitive skiing in Nancy’s program.

In 1969, she began coaching at Toni Sailer Summer Ski Camps on Whistler Mountain, a position she maintained for several years and which she will be recollecting at this Friday’s Speaker Series.

Al and Nancy first built a cabin in Whistler in 1970, which was their summer home while Nancy coached on the glacier. Once Al retired as a ski coach in 1975, they moved to Whistler full-time and set out to help Whistler become a leading international ski destination.

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Nancy skiing on Blackcomb, circa 1980s

Nancy and her husband Al Raine also played a huge role in the early success of Whistler and their legacy carries on to this day. Nancy became an spokeswoman and ambassador for the resort, using her celebrity to promote the upstart ski area. As such, she was one of Whistler’s original “Celebrity-Athletes” that played such a pivotal role in Whistler becoming, well, Whistler.

Al sat on the first municipal council and was a leading figure in the planning, design, and construction of Whistler Village and Blackcomb Mountain.

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Nancy and husband Al, representing Blackcomb Mountain (note the matching Blackcomb Mountain outfits, and Nancy’s Blackcomb logo name tag). circa 1980s.

In 1985 they built Nancy Green’s Olympic Lodge in the heart of the Village, and despite having long since sold it, the building bear’s Nancy’s name to this day. In the 1990s, Al and Nancy moved on to Sun Peaks in the B.C. interior, but they still maintain close ties to Whistler.

We are truly honoured to have Nancy join this Friday’s  panel, and we hope you can join us. Get your tickets in advance, it will sell out!

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Speaker Series – Celebrating 50 years of Summer Skiing

It’s been a long, nostalgic winter of celebrating Whistler’s Golden Anniversary. But just as Whistler is known for deep snowpacks that sustain the snow-sliding revelry well past winter, we have an abundance of stories this year to push our regular Speaker Series programming well into spring.

Considering the circumstances, it is only fitting that we prolong our season-long retrospective on our resort’s proud ski history with an event paying tribute to that seasonal oddity peculiar to Whistler, summer skiing. The evening of Friday May 6th we will be hosting a Speaker Series focused on fifty years of summer skiing camps on Whistler’s glaciers.

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Summer glacier skiing in Whistler is as old as the resort itself, having begun during the inaugural season of 1966. Beginning with the original Toni Sailer camps and later Dave Murray camps on Whistler, then moving to Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier in the 1980s, with Camp of Champions, Momentum Camps, to name just a few, summer skiing in Whistler has been a novel way to compliment and extend the regular ski season, promote the resort with a veritable who’s who of celebrity athletes and guest coaches, and create fifty years of memorable and unique experiences.

Former camper and ski history enthusiast Alex Douglas has organized a weekend long “Whistler Summer Camp Reunion” series of events, with this Speaker Series included. There will also be a reunion dinner hosted at Creekbread on the Saturday, and, of course, group ski outings during the day. One need not be a former camper to attend the Speaker Series event.

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The crew from the 1969 Toni Sailer Summer Camp, including (front row at left) Alan White and Nancy Greene, and Toni Sailer himself (back row, 2nd from right).

The Speaker Series will open with a screening of footage and a short film dating back to the original Toni Sailer Summer Camps of the 1960s and 70s. After the film will be a panel discussion featuring Canadian ski racing legend and former summer camp coach Nancy Greene-Raine, Alan White, founding manager of Toni Sailer camps and one of the true ski pioneers of Whistler, and former coach from the Dave Murray Summer Camp era, Mark Taylor.

Needless to say, this is a wonderful panel of speakers and we are extremely excited to host them and hear their stories.

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A group shot of all the coaches at the Dave Murray Summer Ski Camp, circa late 1980s, including Mark Taylor (back row 4th from the left). The crew was a veritable “who’s who” of Canadian ski racing. Stephanie Sloan Photo.

Doors will open at 6pm, with the presentations beginning at 7pm. Tickets are $10, $5 for museum members. To purchase tickets, stop by the Whistler Museum or call us at 604-932- 2019. To ensure a seat, make sure to purchase in advance as this event will sell out.

As always, we will be serving complimentary coffee provided by the Whistler Roasting Company, assorted tea, and a cash bar serving beer and wine.

Speaker Series – “Celebrity Athletes and the Growth of Modern Skiing”

A few weeks ago we profiled Stephanie Sloan, freestyle superstar and featured presenter at our upcoming Speaker Series event “Celebrity Athletes and the Growth of Modern Skiing.” The event will explore how professional skiers have harnessed their top-level skills and name-recognition to introduce cutting edge techniques to skiers. This phenomenon has long been a major driving force for the sport, otherwise, we would all still be doing telemarks and stem christies.

Here in Whistler, the first high-profile skier to hitch his name and skills to the new resort was Austrian ski-racing star Toni Sailer, who began operating summer ski camps on the Whistler Glacier in 1967. The following year big-mountain ski pioneer Jim McConkey was hired to run the Whistler Mountain ski school.

Before (and during ) his time in Whistler, McConkey made a name for himself as an early ski film star. Here he is enjoying some of Alta, Utah's famous champagne pow.

Before (and during) his time in Whistler, McConkey made a name for himself as an early ski film star. Here he is enjoying some of Alta, Utah’s famous champagne pow.

Then in 1970, fresh off her historic gold medal performance at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics, Nancy Greene and her husband Al Raine built a cabin in Whistler and became heavily involved in teaching skiing, promoting the sport, and developing the resort.

The following image shows the coaching staff at the 1969 Toni Sailer summer camp. Sailer is back row, 2nd from right, and Nancy Greene is front row, 2nd from left. Almost all the other coaches were World Cup level racers.

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This trifecta of early ski stars set the standard, but there have been countless others over the years. One who has most skillfully made the transition from competition to coaching is John Smart. A moguls specialist John was a two-time Olympian, 13-time World Cup medallist, 3 time Canadian Champion and World Pro Champion during a career spanning from 1987-1996.

In 1992 he founded Momentum Ski Camps which focused on training the next generation of freestyle ski champions every summer on Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier. Today, Momentum is bigger than ever, having fully embraced the Freeski revolution and hosting some of the sport’s biggest names as their coaches each summer.

But some might say the real highlight of John’s career came in 2013 when he taught renowned Canadian ranter Rick Mercer how to jump onto an inflatable crash pad.

Rounding out the panel discussion will be Rob McSkimming. Rob brings several decades of experience in the ski industry to the table, including a stint as a coach at Dave Murray Summer Ski Camps in the 1980s.

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Dave Murray Summer Ski Camp 1987 – coaches group photo. Among many legends of Canadian Skiing pictured here, Rob McSkimming is seated front row, 3rd from the left.

Rob went on to become the snow school’s general manager for several years before moving onto his current position with Whistler-Blackcomb as VP-Business Development.  Clearly, Rob has a wealth of knowledge that will complement John and Stephanie’s recollections on the panel.

We hope you can join us on Sunday February 21st for “Celebrity Athletes and the Growth of Modern Skiing”! The event is being held in conjunction with International Ski History Day, being organized by the International Ski History Association who will have a delegation in attendance. They’re also offering a full-day ski package, concluding at our Speaker Series, that is incredible value. Details available through the above hyperlink.

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When: Sunday February 21st; Doors at 6pm, show 7pm-9pm
Where: Whistler Museum (4333 Main Street, beside the Library)
Who: Everyone!
Cost: $10 regular price, $5 for museum members and W-B Club Shred.

We expect this event to sell out, so make sure to get your tickets early. To purchase tickets stop by the museum or call us at 604.932.2019.

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Al Raine – Ski Industry Legend, Visionary, and a Pretty Cool Dude

When ski racing legend Al Raine made the move to Whistler in 1973, he had already established himself as head coach and program director of the Canadian National Alpine Ski Team at the age of 32. Around this time, the provincial government was looking for an individual to provide technical expertise and coordinate provincial ski expansion, as well as oversee the development of Whistler as a tourist destination resort. With his extensive background in the ski industry, Raine was the perfect candidate to act as a liaison between the municipality and the provincial government. Thus, Al was approached about a position and he accepted in May 1974. As acting Ski Area Coordinator of B.C. and alderman for the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), one of Al’s first tasks was assisting in the building of a sewer plant that would service the entire valley.

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With the completion of the new sewer system, the Whistler council turned their attention to creating a central village. When the government asked their appointed ski coordinator to report on the realistic achievable goals for Whistler, Al remained positive that it had the potential to become a world-class ski resort, despite the weakness that was B.C.’s coastal climate. He was confident that with good skiing on the upper mountains, solid lifts, and a village, success would be imminent. At the same time, this meant that more lifts were vital, seeing as upward of 2400 people could be seen standing in line for hours at a time, waiting to get onto a mountain with a capacity of 600 skiers per hour.

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The original Resort Municipality of Whistler Council. Pictured from left to right: Alderman Bob Bishop, Alderman Al Raine, Treasurer Geoff Pearce, Mayor Pat Carleton, Alderman John Hetherington, Alderman Gary Watson

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Al Raine and wife, Nancy Greene Raine, enjoying a day out on the slopes

With local government starting to take shape, Al began to look toward the possibility of a future for Blackcomb. In September of 1976, he put out a proposal call to develop the mountain. After months of silence, a bid finally came in from the Aspen Ski Corporation of Colorado in joint venture with the Canadian Federal Business Development Bank. Once final terms were ironed out and the deal agreed upon, investors had the go ahead to complete phase one of development, and on December 6, 1980, Blackcomb Mountain opened with 1240 vertical meters of skiing available.

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Al Raine shaking hands with Whistler’s first mayor, Pat Carleton, ca. 1975

Al’s position as B.C.’s ski area coordinator included more than just Whistler. He also studied 45 areas province wide, giving site evaluations on their probability. In 1980, Al stepped down from his position and took the job of General Manager of the newly formed Whistler Resort Association. The organization was responsible for scheduling events at Whistler while providing basic information, central reservations, and marketing promotions for the resort. Today, Al and his wife Nancy can be seen in Whistler skiing, golfing, and playing tennis. After years of hard work and dedication, Al Raine has the opportunity to enjoy the vision of Whistler that he assisted in creating.

Summer Skiing? A Whistler Tradition.

Skiing  in summer? In Whistler, that isn’t as crazy an idea as it sounds. With its year-round glaciers, everyone from pint-sized campers to larger-than-life ski stars have taken advantage of Whistler’s unique setting to squeeze in some turns during the “offseason.”

The sun-filled sky acts as a perfect balance to the chilled mountain air, leading to peak skiing conditions – pun definitely intended.

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Since the first lifts were installed in the 1960s Whistler has always been  was a popular ski destination. Perhaps a victim of its own success, long lineups during the Winter discouraged many impatient skiers, but during the summer this was not the case. Many become occupied with the variety of summer activities available in the Whistler area, such as canoeing on Alta Lake, so the mountain was left to the die-hard skiers.

Whistler’s Glacier Bowl was also the only permanent snowfield in Canada that was easily accessible by lifts, a convenience factor which trumped earlier summer skiing efforts powered by helicopters, or simply placing one foot ini front of the other with your ski gear on your back.

The first summer ski camps on the Whistler glacier were pioneered by Toni Sailer, a medal-winning member of the Austrian ski racing team. Sailer’s motivation behind developing the ski camp program on Whistler was largely driven by the need for competitive skiers to stay in shape and to improve their techniques between competition seasons, but as word of the camps spread recreational skiers also became active participants.

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Four types of instruction (Advanced Racing, Intermediate and Novice Racing, Recreational, and Freestyle) became the norm, and accommodated skiers of all levels who received personalized instruction by internationally known skiers such as Nancy Greene Raine, Wayne Wong, and Jim McConkey.

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These ski camps inspired many young skiers to enter the competitive world of ski racing, among them being Dave Murray, who attended his first Toni Sailer Summer Ski Camp at the age of 15. Murray quickly rose to fame as one of the Crazy Canucks – the Canadian ski racing team – who took the European-dominated ski racing world by storm with their reckless style of skiing.

After 10 years on the competitive ski racing circuit Murray retired to become the director of skiing at Whistler Mountain, as well as the organizer and lead instructor of the summer ski camps. In 1984, the name of Whistler’s most popular summer ski camp was officially changed to the Atomic Dave Murray Whistler Summer Ski Camp, and its fame grew to attract many skiers from Europe and Japan.

During the late 1980s the popularity of snowboarding on Blackcomb Mountain was also growing, prompting a need for the development of summer camps that catered to this new breed of mountain rider. The Snoboard Shop Camp of Champions (established in 1989) was one of the first summer camps to cater to snowboarders, and by 2008 60% of Whistler-Blackcomb campers were snowboarders, indicating a mass migration away from camps dedicated to the traditional snow sports.

Camps for all types of snow sport – as well as for the newer mountain biking market – have continued to grow in popularity in Whistler as the draw of the year-round glaciers continue to provide excellent conditions for Whistler’s summer ski and snowboard camps.