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Kwanlin Koyotes founder Gary Bailie inducted into Yukon Sports Hall of Fame

A gathering celebrating Bailie's induction into the hall of fame was held June 19

Gary Bailie, head coach and founder of the Kwanlin Koyotes ski program, was inducted into the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame on June 19. 

Sport Yukon announced the induction in a June 12 statement which described Bailie as “a cornerstone not only of the cross-country ski community but of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, of Whitehorse and of the Yukon Territory.” 

An induction ceremony was held in the McIntyre subdivision on Kwanlin Dün First Nation land on June 19. In attendance was Chief Sean Uyenets’echᶖa Smith of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabott and Yukon Tourism and Culture Minister John Streicker. 

At the June 19 gathering, Bailie described creating the Kwanlin Koyotes youth ski program with the intention of providing young people with an opportunity to form connections with the land, while promoting an active and healthy lifestyle. The program evolved from Bailie teaching his daughter and her friends to ski and then realizing the potential benefits building a program could have for the wider community. 

The McIntyre trails, which connect to the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club facilities, were built by Bailie and his team over a decade ago and form part of the current Kwanlin Koyotes ski trail system. In the winter, you can still find Bailie grooming the trails in the McIntyre area. 

Bailie took up cross-country skiing as a youngster when recruited by Father Jean-Marie Mouchet to participate in the Territorial Experimental Ski Training, or TEST, program, making the national cross-country ski team at age 17.  

Author and Yukon historian John Firth, who spoke at the June 19 induction, wrote about Mouchet in his book North Star and expressed admiration for Bailie’s accomplishments and the reasons for putting Bailie forward for nomination.

“He has inspired and encouraged young people of all colours, creeds and cultures to develop the gifts given to them by the creator. To believe in themselves, to develop the physical strength that gives one the mental strength to determine their own future path in life,” Firth said. 

“When Sport Yukon contacted me about nominating Gary to the sports hall of fame, I thought about what Gary had accomplished in his life and in particular those he has helped.” 

Bailie spoke fondly about the mental health benefits of connecting with the natural world and how spending time out on the trail had helped him many times over. During his acceptance speech, he softly reminded attendees about the importance of preserving trails for future generations to benefit from. 

“Cross-country skiers spend a lot of time out there on their own. It’s a great place to think and to really process things. I go there often and it’s really helped me save my life a hundred times and will probably save it a hundred more. It’s there for everybody,” Bailie said. 

“We’re all connected to the land and it’s where we all came from. We need to protect it because there’s no planet B. This is our place. We need to do that together.”