Ski with an Olympic champ

Writer drops by Sun Peaks Re­sort near Kam­loops, Bri­tish Columbia for Win­ter Wine Fes­ti­val and ends up ski­ing with Olympic gold medal­ist Nancy Greene.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - DESTINATIONS - SPE­CIAL TO TC ME­DIA

We slide off the Sun­burst chair­lift and im­me­di­ately stop dead in our tracks.

The view from the top is awein­spir­ing.

As far as the eye can see there are slopes and peaks shrouded in snow-cov­ered ev­er­greens with ski runs me­an­der­ing through them.

The sky is light blue with the odd wispy cloud danc­ing across the hori­zon and the air is crisp, the way it can only be on a per­fect win­ter day.

All of a sud­den, a woman’s voice breaks the si­lence.

“This is why I bring peo­ple up here,” she say mat­ter-of-factly.

We swivel our heads to dis­cover it’s none other than Olympic gold medal­ist Nancy Greene.

This is, af­ter all, Sun Peaks Re­sort near Kam­loops, Bri­tish Columbia and Greene is di­rec­tor of ski­ing here.

For the next hour-and-a-half we’ll fol­low the gi­ant slalom cham­pion from the 1968 Greno­ble Games down the easy Homesteader run onto 5 Mile (yes, it re­ally is eight kilo­me­tres long), across Crys­tal Lane to the Trans Canada, straight down Blazer and fin­ish with a Dis­trib­u­tor dash to the aptly-named Sting, the most dif­fi­cult, but spec­tac­u­lar, de­scent of the day.

In be­tween, our group, made up of a blonde from Cal­i­for­nia, a wine pro­moter and me, take turns sit­ting be­side Greene on the chair­lift to gab.

“The di­rec­tor of ski­ing job ti­tle means what­ever I want it to mean,” says Greene, 72, when we share the chair.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to meet and ski with as many Sun Peaks guests as pos­si­ble.”

While we’ve been preen­ing like VIPs be­cause we’re ski­ing with a Cana­dian ski leg­end, the re­al­ity is any­one can hit the slopes with Greene.

Ev­ery week­end and day dur­ing school breaks at 1 p.m. she hangs out at the ‘Ski with Nancy’ sign at the top of the Sun­burst chair­lift to meet up with who­ever is game for a group ski.

Such in­cred­i­ble ac­cess to an Olympic gold medal­ist and sports icon is un­heard of at other re­sorts.

But at Sun Peaks, the se­cond big­gest ski area in Canada be­hind only Whistler Black­comb, Greene is a fa­mous fix­ture.

She’s made ski tourism pro­mo­tion her life’s work and has been at Sun Peaks for 21 years, run­ning Nancy Greene’s Cahilty Lodge with her hus­band, Al Raine, who just hap­pens to be Sun Peaks’ mayor, and ski­ing with tourists.

But, my wife and I are of­fi­cially at Sun Peaks to take in the Win­ter Wine Fes­ti­val, so I need to get back to Sun Peaks Lodge, where she’s been loung­ing in front of the fire, to pick her up for apres ski. This is post-ski with a twist. The Spir­ited Apres is held out­doors at Nancy Greene’s Cahilty Lodge and Okana­gan Spir­its is serv­ing liqueurs, brandies and whiskies from be­hind the ice bar.

Of course, Greene is there with a wel­com­ing smile and hello, still in her ski suit, sip­ping a Pear Wil­liam brandy.

As it gets dark, the slope­side fire­works are set off and then ev­ery­one dis­perses to get changed for the fest’s mar­quee event - the Pro­gres­sive Wine Tast­ing.

Glass in hand, we wan­der the pedes­tri­an­ized and snowy main street of Sun Peaks’ charm­ing vil­lage to hit some of the ho­tels, restau­rants and shops where 30 winer­ies have set up tast­ing sta­tions for the 650 mer­ry­mak­ers.

It’s billed as win­ter’s best wine party and we agree as we pass span­dexed dancers twirling il­lu­mi­nated hula hoops.

Two of our best wine dis­cov­er­ies are from nearby Kam­loops-area winer­ies - the dry ries­ling from Harper’s Trail and Monte Creek’s Hands Up white blend named af­ter turn-of-the-cen­tury train rob­ber Billy Miner.

There’s more glo­ri­ous ski­ing the next day and then a wrap up Wine­maker’s Din­ner at Man­tles restau­rant in the tony Sun Peaks Grand Ho­tel.

We ar­rive hun­gry to eat our way through an eight-course tast­ing menu, matched ev­ery step of the way with a dif­fer­ent wine, of course.

Stand out dishes in­cluded the pil­lowy-soft crab ravi­oli with Hay­wire chardon­nay and grilled sword­fish paired to Tan­talus ries­ling.

The 10-day Win­ter Wine Fes­ti­val is held ev­ery year mid-Jan­uary at Sun Peaks.

The Okana­gan Wine Fes­ti­vals So­ci­ety also puts on three other multi-day par­ties in the spring, sum­mer and fall at var­i­ous venues through­out the Okana­gan Val­ley.

Check out TheWineFes­ti­vals.com and Sun­Peak­sRe­sort.com.

PHOTO BY STEVE MACNAULL

Olympic gold medal­ist Nancy Greene meets up with tourists reg­u­larly at Sun Peaks Re­sort near Kam­loops, Bri­tish Columbia to ski.

PHOTO BY STEVE MACNAULL

The view from the top of the Sun­burst chair­lift.

PHOTO BY STEVE MACNAULL

Man­tles restau­rant chef Dar­ren Kashin wowed with his grilled sword­fish at The Wine­maker’s Din­ner at Sun Peaks Grand Ho­tel.

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