When Robin Dawes moved to Williams Lake near the end of 2015 the very first thing she did was join the Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club.
“I marched on down to the library and bought a membership, and have been skiing since then,” she said.
At 72 years old and in just several years living in the lakecity, Dawes has taken on the role of chair with the WLCCSC, created a ski school program, established rental equipment, fundraised, secured multiple grants, helped secure coaching opportunities for members and co-ordinated the Crown land tenure proposal with rec sites and trails.
A self-described “army brat” growing up living in multiple places throughout Canada — mostly in Ontario — Dawes and her husband, Bill, arrived in B.C. when Dawes took a position with K&C Silviculture managing forest seedlings in Oliver. They also wanted to be closer to their three children, who were living in Alberta at the time.
“When we moved from Ontario to B.C. we had been living on a lake in Ontario,” Dawes said. “We missed it, so we actually bought a piece of property on Quesnel Lake and then when I retired we wanted to be closer to that property because we love it there, and decided that’s where we wanted to spend our summers.”
Dawes also missed winter in the Okanagan, and had all but packed away her cross country skis for good.
“My skiing days had pretty much come to an end because there wasn’t really the conditions in the Okanagan,” she said. “I was looking at communities that had ski trails, which was part of the choice we decided to retire here in Williams Lake.”
When the historic 2017 wildfires disrupted many youth sporting activities in the Cariboo, Dawes decided to come up with an idea to do something incorporating the ski area at Bull Mountain and children in Williams Lake.
“We started fundraising with the GROW school and the parent advisory council (PAC) there,” she said. “They had one day a week where the distance-ed students would come together and they would do some type of outdoor, physical activity. One of their activities was skiing.”
With the help of the GROW PAC, the WLCCSC and GROW raised money to purchase ski equipment, along with the help of some Red Cross funding.
In 2018 and with Dawes at the helm, a pilot ski school program was launched between the WLCCSC, GROW and Lake City Secondary School’s outdoor education program.
Since, the ski school program has continued to grow and, this year, will host roughly 30 classes and around 560 student visits from throughout School District 27.
Up until 2018, Dawes said she simply just enjoyed skiing the trails, however, this year decided to step into the role of chair for the WLCCSC.
“This club has so many people who have dedicated large portions of their life to making it a success,” Dawes said.
“Some of these people are now approaching their 80s, and they are the same people who were instrumental back in the early 90s when Williams Lake hosted the cross country ski portion of the BC Winter Games. It’s absolutely amazing there has been that level of dedicated volunteers to keep this club as amazing as it is.”
Dawes said the facilities at Bull Mountain Ski Area are exceptional and noted the COVID-19 pandemic has, perhaps, revitalized peoples’ awareness and appreciation of the outdoors.
“We just hit an all-time record for membership,” she said of the WLCCSC’s 230 members, up from 179 last year. “I think, just in general, people are getting out more frequently, and I think Bull Mountain has played a real big role in helping people cope with being stuck in a house this whole time during the pandemic.”