I moved to Carcross in August 1980 to take up a teaching position at the school where I imagined a ski program for the students, and the community. The immediate tasks were to write a grant proposal to the Yukon Lotteries Commission for ski equipment and to plan a ski meet in Carcross for January 1981. We needed skis and an event that would involve the community if the idea were to catch on. Thankfully, we were able to purchase enough equipment for all students to ski, and we had about 70 volunteers help with that first ski meet.
I recognized that skiing wasn’t a traditional activity of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, but I was inspired by the skiing success of Inuvik’s Firth sisters and the skiers from the TEST Program in Old Crow. Skiing was one of many ways to provide vigorous physical activity for Carcross youth and a way to get them out of the school and onto the land. So, it seemed a worthy project.
More than 30 years later, the Carcross Ski Program lives on. For some of those years it has moved away from the school and in other years it has returned, but a critical factor has always been the closeness of the trails to the school. Other vital components for the program’s success have been the volunteer coaches and trail groomers. It has been well-supported. Dan Kemble has stood out as a mainstay of this program for many years; he surely deserves a medal for his contributions.
Thirty years ago most Yukon skiers were first generation participants – the first in their families to ski. Now there are many second and third generation skiers. At this stage, the activity is slowly becoming part of the culture of this place. Many young parents remember their own introduction to skiing and feel good about having this activity available for their children. The ski program has probably been the longest-running and most consistent program for youth in Carcross.
My proudest moment as a Yukoner was watching Carcross’s own Leanna Dickson win a silver medal at the 1994 Canadian National Junior Skiing Championships in Gatineau, Quebec. She is one of five Yukon Ski Team Members, over the years, who got a start in the Carcross Ski Program. This is an amazing accomplishment for Carcross, but it is only part of the story. These skiers didn’t do anything alone. They were part of a group of skiers that supported each other and learned to ski together. In more than 30 years there have been many dozens – and likely hundreds – of Carcross youth that have benefited from the Ski Program.
Development in the dunes will affect the skiing. It is hard to imagine the program even surviving if the trails are damaged or bisected by roads. I understand that economic development is important for the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, but so is the human development of youth. The dunes are an ecological treasure and they are also a place for Carcross kids to grow.