Nothing kicks off winter in Toronto like a weekend at the Snow Show. We sat down with living legend and skier extraordinaire, Nancy Greene, during the bustling of the Show to catch up on her time at Sun Peaks Resort, what it takes to be a professional skier and the future of skiing!
Hey Nancy, great to see you! What brings you to the Snow Show this year?
Thank you. Well I come every year with Sun Peaks Resort. We’ve been attending the Toronto Ski Show since we started! As Sun Peaks, it’s a very important market for us. People in Ontario, many of them, once they’ve been skiing for a few years they like to take a holiday and go out West. So we enjoy having them as customers and that’s why we’re here.
How does the Toronto Snow Show differ than the other ones you attend?
They’re all a little different. This is a very good one because it mixes up the retail industry, there are some very big retail shops that have huge displays here, and the huge resorts, and also the smaller hills where people are learning how to ski. You see, what I think is very good this year is more people coming who are just getting started skiing and they want to know where they should go in Ontario for lessons. They are not ready to go on holidays but you can see they are learning.
Nancy has been coming to the Toronto Snow Show since 1965. She says that is was busy back then too but the energy was a little different. In those days people thought skiing was an exotic sport and didn’t really know what exactly it was! Boy, we’ve come a long way. Nancy, on the other hand, has been a skier all her life. She grew up in a small town called Rossland in Southern B.C and her parents were the founders of a local non-profit ski club that built one of Canada’s first chair lifts! When she was three years old she was already skiing on that chair lift.
How do you balance being a professional skier, senator, mom and…
What do you mean by professional skier?
Well, you still ski right?
Yes all the time. I mean what is your definition of a professional skier?
You went to the Olympics!
Ah. When I was in the Olympics it was Amateur. If you took any money you were kicked out.
How about that Mars Commercial?!
That was after I retired. Amateur sport in my time, we were not allowed to have any sponsorships or any payment of any kind. You could have your expenses paid and my ski club paid for my expenses and the Canadian Ski Association raised the money to hire the coaches. As Athletes, you had to work in the summer and save up your own pocket money. It’s changed. It’s much better now.
You know… The thing about skiing and snowboarding is that when you become passionate about your sport there is opportunity in the sport to become a professional avid in many different areas whether it’s construction, hotel business, restaurants, fashion, ski equipment, retailing, all those kinds of fields are open for a career. When you use the word ski professional now to me it means, someone who knows a lot more about skiing than other people and it really anxious to share it as a profession. I do consider myself professional but I have two jobs right now. My first job and my “real job” is Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks Resorts and as director it’s the role of promotion and customer relations. I’m out on the hill with my guests; they can come and meet me at a certain meeting place when I’m skiing. But I’m not there everyday. I’m also a senator in the Canadian senate. I go back and forth to Ottawa and Sun Peaks. I’ve been doing that since January 2009. I will be retiring next May then I’ll just be the Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks.
Tell us about your Lodge you own out West.
My husband and I built a Lodge, called Nancy’s Greene Cahilty Hotel and Suits. We sold it to some of our former employees. We still live it in and help out with hospitality but we don’t have to worry day-to-day about the business of running a hotel. It’s nice. We’re very happy about how it’s running and the people who are running it are doing a great job. It’s one of the first hotels at Sun Peaks so it’s got a fantastic location. Selling it is definitely a lot less work for my husband. He was doing all the work of course.
That’s awesome. Leaves you more time to watch the Olympics I guess. Are you still a fan of the Olympics?
It’s fun, and yes of course I watch! In the fall, of course you start to follow the athletes a little closer as opposed to the off years. I was very sad to see that one of our top prospects for a Gold Medal was injured was last week, Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic Champion in ski cross. She unfortunately tore her knee ligaments. I’m also very pleased to see that Dara Howell is back. She took a few years off and went on a personal journey, if you like. Now she has recommitted to going to the Olympics as well.
Nancy also watches some snowboarding, cross-country skiing and figure skating during the Winter Olympics. However, one of her big concerns is to getting the younger generation involved in skiing and snowboarding, “Put down those iPhones and iPads, get on the slopes, go out and nature and have fun!” She cries!
The Toronto Snow Show is definitely a way to keep families curious and psyched to take part in Winter sports like skiing. Nancy points to a young family walking by, “I love seeing that. The Ski Show is great for that because families can come in with very low budgets. They don’t need a lot of money to get in, get the gear and get started. There are good little ski hills right in the city limits of Toronto. You can learn to Ski!”
Definitely. I spent most of my winters growing up driving out to different resorts here in Ontario… right outside Toronto! What would you say to any learning or avid skiers/snowboarders across Canada?
Well if you’re interest in competition and you like to compete. In any sport you have to enjoy doing the sport. You have to enjoy the fun of snowboarding or skiing or whatever it is you’re doing… cycling, playing soccer, whatever. If you really enjoy the sport and you want to get better at it, you need to listen to your coaches and you have to work hard at the physical conditioning. You can never be confident to put yourself on the line in a competition like skiing or snowboarding if you are not strong. You need to get the strength in the summer time with summer conditioning and that’s the thing that kids don’t appreciate.
Yeah, it’s easy to look at the lifestyle and want a part of it.
Well if you want to be good at anything you have to work at it. There are other people who are working at it. So if you don’t do the work or the preparation you’re not going to come in the top 10 or top 20 once you get out of your own little pond. If you really want to go for it you really got to look at what it takes and be prepared to do the work. But anybody can do it! It’s just a question of putting your mind to it, be smart about it, looking for good coaching and then working hard then harder than everybody else. And sticking to it, because you’re going to have set-backs, injuries, don’t give up. The sports where there is risk, but it’s not about taking risk, it’s about analyzing risk because if you are competing and you crash, you don’t win. So you need to analyze risk and learn the techniques and going really close to the edge but not over the edge and start crashing. It’s all about analyzing. Those are skills that are good for you in your whole life – whatever you get into – those are transferrable skills. That’s why I encourage parents to put their kids in a sport like skiing. You learn certain skills from skiing that you don’t learn in a lot of other sports, some of the big life skills.
You’ve definitely developed the life long stills! What’s your favourite run at Sun Peaks?
I don’t really have a favourite run but I do have a sort of pattern of runs that I go on. It depends on who I’m skiing with! I enjoy with skiing with all levels of skiers. I can have fun with a novice skier meaning I can take you places where you’ll have fun and I’ll have fun too. I don’t mind skiing on our blue runs and our easy green runs, but when I’m skiing with good skiers I like to do in the woods, I like to go in the steeps when you’re in the glades and there is nice powder. I like to have fun in the powder. We have a run called the “Head Wall” which is fantastic. There is another run just off the Head Wall called “Hat Trick” where you are going on a series of three drop-offs and that’s really fun.
Nancy is part of a meet up of program at Sun Peaks Resort in British Colombia. This program takes Sun Peaks guests on an exclusive tour of the mountain runs! We asked Nancy to tell us more about the program.
Tell us how this meet up program started and why you like to meet up with guests! I think that really sets Sun Peaks about from any other resort in Canada. It gives it a real personal feel.
Sun Peaks is a very big area. We now have three mountains! You could ski from one mountain to the other mountain and back again. You can do that by following the trail signs and trail maps but all of us who work at the resort encourage people to go with our Sun Hosts. This is a group of people, everyday, that are based at the bottom of the mountain. Guests can go stand at a Blue, Green or Black signs and the Sun Hosts go off, ski and show them around. That’s a part of our hospitality.
Since the beginning, I’ve been the Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks. Part of my role has been to be out on the mountain with guests and to let guests know when I’m there. If they want to meet up with me and ski with me they are to meet up at a certain place and certain time. On the days when I’m skiing the mountain hangs a little sign out that says “Nancy is Skiing Today, Meeting Place Top of the Sun Burst Chair 1pm.” At the Top of the Sun Burst Chair there is a little sandwich board in the snow and says “Meet Here to Ski with Nancy Green”. It’s great! I never know who is going to be there. Sometimes there are 30 people so you learn how to deal with people who ski a little differently. You have to stop and tell stories and entertain them while you wait for the slower skiers. You have to go somewhere people aren’t going to get lost from the group and you learn how to do that and it’s fun. Sometimes I just have a few skiers and sometimes I’ve got skiers who want to do some steep terrain and moguls. In this case I say ‘look, I’m going to ski with these people for a while why don’t you meet here again at 2 o’clock?’
I always manage to have fun with people. I really enjoy it. It’s fun for me and you know it allows me to quietly on the chair lift ask how there is their holiday going. If there any problems and I give feedback to the management of Sun Peaks. It’s not an official visitors survey but I know the management really appreciate my feedback about what I am hearing about our guests. It’s kind of a two-way street. I often give people a few tips to make there skiing easier and more comfortable. Especially when you have people coming from Ontario where the slopes are quite short. Sometimes I can see people who ski badly very well. They’ve been skiing a long time but they have habits that don’t make it easy when you get out onto the long runs because your legs get really tired. You can show them a few things that make it easier to ski on the big mountains. I like to pass on that information it’s fun.
We’re so honoured to have caught up with Nancy Greene this year. Check her out this season at Sun Peaks and join her for a run!