Nancy Greene is one of the best known names in Canadian skiing. Her success at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France made a lasting impression on Canadian skiers and non-skiers alike, and Nancy has stayed in the public eye ever since.
Nancy was born in Ottawa on May 11, 1943 but has always considered herself to be from British Columbia. Both Nancy's parents were from B.C., and her father was 'on loan to the Government' during the war when she was born. After the war, the Greene family returned to the Kootenays where Nancy grew up in Rossland and did her early skiing on Red Mountain. Nancy and her two sisters and three brothers all skied from the age of three. Her parents were both avid skiers and were founding members of the Red Mountain Ski Club.
Nancy began ski racing in local high school races at about the time that Lucile Wheeler became the first Canadian skier to win an Olympic medal, a bronze in Downhill at the Cortina Olympics. Lucile, from Ste. Jovite, Quebec, went on to win two gold medals at the World Ski Championships in 1958. That same year Nancy won her first trophy, placing second to her sister Elizabeth in the Canadian Junior Championships.
Two years later Nancy and her sister were both on the Canadian team for the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics and Nancy had the good fortune to room with Anne Heggtveit from Ottawa who won the gold medal in the slalom. From that point on, Nancy was determined to win a gold medal in the Olympics.
Nancy's career coincided with rapid changes in skiing, both in ski equipment (she started with leather lace boots and wood skis and retired with plastic buckle boots and fiberglass skis) and in the organization of ski racing. She saw the beginning of a true National Ski Team program in Canada and the introduction of the World Cup. Nancy raced all over North America, Europe and in South America and competed for Canada in the World Championships in Chamonix, France and Portillo, Chile as well as three Olympics: Squaw Valley, Innsbruck and Grenoble.
During Nancy's nine year racing career, she won three U.S. Championship titles and nine Canadian titles. The introduction of the World Cup in 1967 coincided with Nancy's arrival as one of the top ranked skiers in the world. She narrowly won the 1967 overall title with a victory by 7/100th of a second in the last race of the year, defeating a strong French ski team that had dominated the World Championships the previous summer.
As the 1968 Olympics approached, Nancy was a favorite to win in all three ski events, but an ankle injury just a month before the Games jeopardized her chances. A disappointing tenth place in the opening downhill seemed to indicate that Nancy was not in form, but expectations rose with her silver medal performance in the slalom the following day. Nancy did not let her fans down, she attacked the giant slalom course with everything she had, and crossed the line with the gold medal. Her victory, by a margin of 2.68 seconds is still considered one of the most decisive wins in Olympic history.
The rest of the 1968 racing season is history. Nancy put together a string of victories in all three events and easily won her second overall World Cup title. In two years of World Cup racing, she had a total of 13 victories, the most by any Canadian and still one of the top overall averages today. Having reached her goals, Nancy retired from amateur racing at the age of 24 and embarked on a successful promotional career.
For the next few years, Nancy's busy schedule took her all across Canada, and her face became familiar on Mars Bars and Pontiac commercials on television. She continued her relationship with the Rossignol Ski Company whose skis had carried her to victory, and remains on their promotion staff today. In the summer of 1968, Nancy served on Prime Minister Trudeau's "Task force on Sport" and assisted the Canadian Ski Team with fundraising and promotion. This work put her in contact with Al Raine, the new Program Director of Canada's National Ski Team. They were married in April 1969 and their twin sons Charley and Willy were born in Montreal in January 1970.
Nancy and Al have made skiing their life's work. They built a ski cabin in Whistler in 1970 and spent their summers there coaching on the glacier. When Al retired from the ski team in 1975, they moved back to British Columbia full time. Both Al and Nancy believe that British Columbia has some of the best mountains and snow in the world, and they worked hard to help Whistler become a major international ski destination. Al was responsible for the planning of Whistler Village and the expansion of both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains in the early 80's. Nancy became the unofficial 'Whistler Ambassador' promoting the area to investors, skiers and the media.
In 1985, following a two year sabbatical in Europe where Nancy and Al taught skiing as their sons learned French at the local school, the family returned to Whistler and built Nancy Greene's Olympic Lodge. Their project was the first hotel in Whistler to be built and financed as a hotel and its success is credited as a turning point in the investment climate of the resort. Nancy and Al sold the hotel in 1988 and it was joined to the neighboring property, becoming Nancy Greene Lodge. Nancy remained very active in promotions and public relations with the hotel until it was re-sold in 1994.
Both Nancy and Al have stayed involved with amateur ski racing, volunteering as race officials and until recently serving on committees for the International Ski Federation. Nancy is the Honorary Chairman of the Nancy Greene Ski League, Canada's popular grass roots program for alpine skiing. Their son Willy raced with the National Ski Team and competed in the Albertville Olympics, while their other son Charley prefers the challenge of snowboarding and telemarking.
In December 1994, Nancy and Al decided to leave Whistler and turn their energies and talents once again to the development of a new destination ski area, Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops in the interior of British Columbia. Once again Nancy and Al were leaders, building the first condominium hotel in Sun Peaks Village -- Nancy Greene's Cahilty Lodge — named after a local pioneer ranching family. Nancy and Al make their home in the lodge which opened for business in December 1995.
Nancy is Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks Resort and skis with guests at every opportunity.
In late November 1999 Nancy was voted named Canada's Female Athlete of the Century in a poll by Canadian Press and Broadcast News Association. Wayne Gretsky was chosen Male Athlete of the Century.
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