My fly-by-the-seat-of-my-snowpants style of skiing doesn’t exactly fly with Nancy Greene Raine. I’ve barely linked two turns down our first run together at Sun Peaks Resort, her adopted home mountain where she holds the eminent title of “Director of Skiing,” before the spry, alpine-skiing legend is giving me tips on how to be less of a hack.
A couple more runs and I’m still trying to put her advice into action as I follow her down a smooth, blue cruiser. She veers left and lets her turns flow up and down the banks that line the run. When I skid to a stop next to her at the chairlift her eyes are twinkling. “Didya follow me up and down the banks?” she asks. “That’s fun, hey? Just like a half-pipe.”
The Hill is Her Home
When you’re hanging with Nancy (there’s no need to add her last name around these parts) you realize very soon that this ski hill is essentially her home and everyone on it is her guest. The 67-year-old hero of the 1968 Grenoble Olympics is both host and den mother.
Every day at 1 p.m., provided she’s not away sitting with the senate in Ottawa, anyone who wants to join her for an informal ski date can meet at the bottom of the mountain. Where you go will depend on whatever is good that day—Nancy’s got expert knowledge of what’s been groomed recently and where the best powder stashes lie. She calls the shots, and anyone who’s with her just tries to keep up.
Get Your Picture With a Gold Medalist
The compact grandmother of one is just as well known with her sticks off. Lunchtime at the mid-mountain Sunburst Lodge brings with it an unending parade of admirers asking for a picture with the 1968 Gold Medalist (she won a silver that year as well). She’s happy to oblige and will inevitably start chatting them up about where they’ve been skiing that day, and where they should ski that day.
She wants everyone on her mountain to have the best turns possible. When she returns her attention back to our lunch table she chides me for not having finished the gooey chunk of cinnamon bun on my plate. I almost expect her to call me “Missy.”
Sharing the Burfield Quad Chairlift With Nancy
A few runs in after lunch, we end up at the mid-station entry point of the Burfield quad chairlift. A chair with two young snowboarders comes into view and the mid-station liftie motions for them to move to the sides, allowing Nancy and myself to load the two middle seats. As the chair moves up the mountain, Nancy starts chatting up the young whippersnappers, one an Aussie, the other a German.
Gesturing looker’s left she explains how access a zone known as the Nose of the Chief, where they’ll find an exceptional glade run. If you hit it near the end of the day, Nancy says, the sun starts to set behind you so that when you’re riding down through the 100-foot pines it looks just like a cathedral. A light goes on in the Aussie’s head. “Did you, like, win a gold medal?” he asks. “A gold and a silver,” says Nancy. “No one cares about the silver.”
The chair continues to inch up the slope and the German kid remarks under his breath about how “f-ing slow” the lift is. “Watch your mouth,” says Nancy. “That’s no way to talk around a lady. Maybe you can say that around girls your age, but not around women my age.”
We unload at the top, the snowboarders going their separate ways, the mountain dropping away below us. Nancy adjusts her gloves and turns her attention downhill. “Now,” she says, “let’s go find some powder.” And though you can’t quite tell with her goggles on, you know her eyes are twinkling.
Sun Peaks Resort Director of Skiing Nancy Greene Raine leads informal ski groups on the mountain daily at 1 p.m. (provided she’s not sitting with the Senate in Ottawa).