Celebrating Nancy Greene Raine 

click to enlarge GEORGE BENJAMIN COLLECTION - FIRST LADY OF SKIING Nancy Greene coaches skiers on Whistler Mountain.
  • George Benjamin Collection
  • FIRST LADY OF SKIING Nancy Greene coaches skiers on Whistler Mountain.

If you read last week's Museum Musings, you already know that October has been designated Women's History Month in Canada since 1992.  

One of the reasons for choosing October to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women across Canada was the inclusion of Persons Day. On Oct. 18, 1929 (only 89 years ago today) Canada's highest court of appeal ruled that women are considered "persons"under the British North America Act of 1867 and should be eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada.

For the woman we're featuring this week, the Persons Day ruling is of significance as it made her appointment to the Senate in 2009 possible.

Nancy Greene grew up skiing in Rossland, British Columbia and was Canada's biggest ski star during the 1960s. After winning the inaugural World Cup in 1967 Nancy went on to win two medals in the 1968 Grenoble Olympics (gold in giant slalom and silver in slalom) and her second World Cup. Nancy's total of 13 World Cup victories and 17 Canadian Championship titles remain Canadian records today.

Though Nancy retired after 1968, her two incredibly successful seasons had inspired hundreds of young skiers. The Nancy Greene Ski League was formed to promote participation in ski racing and fun in competition nationwide.

Nancy married Al Raine, then the Canadian National Ski Team coach, and the pair built a home in Whistler for when Nancy was working as a coach at the Toni Sailer Summer Ski Camps on Whistler. When the Resort Municipality of Whistler was formed in 1975 Al was appointed to council and the family moved to the valley permanently.

Over their 25 years in Whistler Al and Nancy were very involved in the community. Active in early bids for the Olympics and founding members of the Blackcomb Ski Club, they were also involved in other aspects of the community. Nancy served as school trustee for the local school district during the early years of the first Myrtle Philip School and they were both involved in the Alta Lake Ratepayers Association.

In the early years it was hard not be involved in the community. As Nancy recalled, "You had to go to every little sort of festival or function as a person who lived in the valley, 'cause if we didn't all go there weren't enough people. And between volunteering for it, and driving the trucks, or putting your kids' bikes in the parades and cutting the cake, we were all there." In 1990 Al and Nancy were jointly named Whistler's Citizens of the Year.

Al and Nancy opened the Nancy Greene Olympic Lodge in 1985 (the word "Olympic" had to be dropped after protests from IOC lawyers), one of the first few hotels in Whistler Village. They ran the lodge until 1994 when it was sold and renamed the Crystal Lodge.

The family left Whistler for the newly developing Sun Peaks resort in 1995. There they continued to be involved in creating a new ski destination. In 1999 Nancy was voted Canada's Female Athlete of the Century. Nancy has also received the Order of the Dogwood, the Order of British Columbia, and has been named an officer of the Order of Canada.

Nancy was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2009, where she served until her retirement this past spring.

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