1960 Yukon Nuggets
When Al Raine arrived in the Whitehorse in December of 1960, he had no idea that his stay in the Yukon would be the beginning of a lifelong career in skiing. The Vancouver-raised youngster was still wearing his west-coast rain-coat and summer shoes when he got off the DC 3 at the Whitehorse airport. It was minus 40 and the white land was locked "tight as drum", just like another banker of an earlier time, Robert Service, described. Al had been posted to Mayo by the Royal Bank, and later sent to Calumet.
Here he met many Europeans who took skiing seriously. So did Al, since he had skied on Grouse and Seymour Mountains as a ten-year-old paperboy who received free skiing lessons through the Vancouver Sun.
August and Olive Pociwauschek, who later ran the Igloo sporting good store in Whitehorse, were mentors to Al. They'd spend weekends skiing together at Calumet, on a hill with a ski tow. Here, Al made up his mind that he would try and build a career in skiing, so he quit the bank and went to work for United Keno Hill Mines to earn enough money to follow his dream.
He says that the Pociwauscheks helped him realize many of his dreams with their confidence and encouragment. In these early days, there were not too many believers, not even his parents who couldn't understand how anyone could make a living skiing. Lifelong friends, the Pociwauscheks taught Al about hard work and about the big, wide world out there that was calling to be discovered. He even returned to Whitehorse in the summer of 1967 to help run the Igloo sporting goods store.
Another influence in the Yukon was from the Europeans who were working for United Keno Hill mines. One of his skiing buddies was Otto Lind. Al had planned to go ski racing in Colorado, but Lind convinced him to join him in Austria were they would ski race. In 1962, at the tender age of 21, he was off to Europe. His goal - to become an excellent skier and competitor.
Once there, he met so many ex-Yukoners, he began to think that almost everybody in Austria had been to the Yukon. Otto returned to the Yukon, but Al stayed on for another three years, learning the Austrian dialect of the German language, which helped later when he took over the National Ski Team.
When he returned to Canada in 1965, he worked at the Red Mountain Ski area in Rossland, British Columbia, for a winter before moving to Montreal where he coached the Ski Hawks in 1966 and 1967.
In 1968, he joined the Canadian Alpine Ski Team as Head Coach and Program Director, a position he held until 1973. This was the start of Canadian skiers emerging as a real threat to the dominance of the ski-mad Europeans.
With the National Ski Team, Al helped to establish innovative programs. It was the first team to use a wind tunnel to study the aerodynamics of downhill skiers. To raise the standards of competitive skiing throughout North America, the Can-Am ski series was introduced.
As a result of his enthusiasm, innovation and development, the most famous Alpine downhill team in Canadian skiing history emerged. They were called the "Crazy Canucks".
After leaving active coaching in 1973, he remained in the skiing world as a private consultant, advising on ski area development projects throughout Canada and the western United States.
Looking back, Al says the Austrian group at Calumet, Yukon, changed his horizons and helped him enter the world of skiing. Without this broader outlook, he says, he would never have skiied Europe or become motivated to help put Canada on the map as a top alpine skiing nation.
Al married Canada's Olympic gold medal skier, the famed Nancy Greene, who in 1999 was voted Canada's female athlete of the century, beating out the legendary figure skater, Barbara Anne Scott, for the honour. Greene and Raine now operate the Sun Peaks Resort just north of Kamloops. Nancy is Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks and skis almost every day. Nancy and Al built and operate Nancy Greene's Cahilty Lodge where they make their home.
But like that other banker, Robert Service, Al Raine looks to the Yukon for the inspiration and support he received during his formative years in the land of the midnight sun.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.