Alta States 

Dan Wilson - staying true to the family creed


It's always fascinating to hear people talk about the major influences in their lives. Some speak of their friends and buddies. Others cite their parents. Still others mention a particular teacher or coach that really turned their head around while they were in school. Few these days trace it back further than one generation. Seems like members of the post-modern set have forgotten all about their "deep" past.

But not Dan Wilson. A thoroughly post-modern Whistlerite - with a research job at Whistler's Centre For Sustainability to prove it - Wilson is one of those rare old souls who isn't afraid to step outside the strictures of conventional wisdom (no matter how recently implemented) in order to better understand the world around him.

Husband, father, athlete, full-time worker - and hard-wired Snoweater - the 36-year old is pretty much exactly where he wants to be in 2011. Yet Wilson is quick to give the credit for his successful ski lifestyle to his maternal grandfather.

In fact, when I approached him a few months back to do a story with me for this column, all he wanted to do was talk about his grandfather - a Manitoba sports legend - and how his positive outlook on life and outdoor activity had touched him deeply.

So I googled him. And sure enough, Doug Groff was a stud. A multi-sport athlete, Wilson's grandpa was an allround kick-ass skier (as well as a champion paddler). This is what they said about him on the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame website: "In skiing, Groff won provincial championships in four different events: downhill in 1935, slalom in 1935-36 and 1938-39, jumping in 1936 and 1939, and cross-country from 1937-40. In 1940, Groff was a member of the three man team which made the first ski ascent of Mount Athabasca in Alberta and in 1944 he led a 40 man group which made the first winter ascent of Mount Columbia."

Impressive stuff. Particularly given his home province's relatively flat geography. But that's exactly the point, says Dan. It's not about the size or steepness of the mountain or even its depth of snow in winter. It's all about getting outside to play. In summer like winter. In good weather like bad. "That's what my grandpa was all about," he says.

He stops for a breath.  Smiles (and I can easily see the physical resemblance to his august forebear). Dark features and subtly muscled body - not big or tall by any means - but quietly strong. Competent too. As far as behaviour goes, he's totally approachable, almost easy-going in temperament. Still, you can't mistake the fire in those eyes for complacency. Passion. Drive. Honesty maybe. But lazy? Never. This is a guy who delivers on his promises...

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