When Liz Thorne decided to get involved with the Snow Valley Nordic Ski Club when she first moved to Kitimat more than 30 years ago, she never imagined just how much going to that one meeting would change her life.
You see, her future husband, Jim Thorne, was on the ski club executive team and was present at that meeting.
“The [cross country] ski club was having its fall general meeting at the library at Roy Wilcox,” Thorne said. “So my girlfriend and I went and we sat there and people talked about what they were doing and so on, and Jim stood up and made a speech about all the hiking they’d done that summer. So then I stood up and told him how he should’ve organized it better and left my phone number and the rest is history.”
Eight months later, the two were married, and Liz soon became an integral part of the ski club.
“Yeah, well I kind of married it, you know,” Thorne said, laughing. “Poor old Jim, I’ve been telling him how to organize stuff ever since.”
Thorne decided to volunteer on the ski club executive, as well, given she was already quite involved because of her husband. She spent the next 20 years as the club’s secretary, a big part of which involved writing the newsletter for members.
“There was a process to writing a newsletter in those days,” she said. “You had to write the newsletter and then, well, I wrote the newsletter and then Jim edited it and we agreed that was how it was to be done. And then we had to get it photocopied. And then we had to stuff the envelopes and address them. And then usually at about 10:30 at night, somebody made a run down to the post office to mail the damn things.”
Because of how much work the newsletters were, Thorne said they didn’t do them very often, until they started using a computer. That made things much easier, as they could type them up and email them out, and were able to start sending them once a month.
Along with her work at the ski club, Thorne spent many years as a teacher. She started teaching Grade One French Immersion, then took some time off to have kids. She worked as a substitute teacher for quite a while after that, which was nice because it meant she could more or less pick her hours to suit her needs.
“Our daughter was quite disabled, so she took a lot of time and effort. So being able to work just half-time made life a lot more manageable,” Thorne said. “And then she passed away and my son was in Grade Eight and just getting into athletics and every team he was on needed a manager, so that was the other half-time job I had, managing Ben’s teams!”
Eventually, Thorne ended up at Mount Elizabeth Middle/Secondary School teaching special education, and the job soon morphed into teaching Grade Eight English and Science, and then sewing, child development, and family studies, among other classes.
“Those were my favourite classes,” Thorne said. “For someone who thought she was going to be a primary teacher all her life, that was a change. And now I’m back on the sub list again.”
“Sometimes I’m grumpy and decide, ‘I’m not doing that.’ But no, usually I take whatever comes,” she said, adding she likes the flexibility and choice involved. “I like going down to the high school, actually, because the kids are, well they’re neat kids, actually. They’re, umm, well, you don’t have to tell them to blow their nose!”
Thorne said she loves teaching the primary grades, but sometimes it can be a bit draining.
“It’s great, it’s fun, but sometimes you just like to have a conversation with an almost-adult.”
But when Thorne isn’t able to have conversations with almost-adults at school, she can always count on her ski club for good conversation and good fun.
Nowadays, Thorne is the president of the ski club and really enjoys her involvement.
“I love being outside, I love the outdoors. I love getting out in, like, I love hiking, and it was just sort of the next thing. I’m not a particularly good skier, in fact I’m probably quite a bad skier, but I get out, I get going, and that’s all I really care about.”
Since joining the ski club, Thorne has skied across the Continental Divide twice, as well as the Wapta Icefield, which is located on the Continental Divide in the Waputik Mountains of the Canadian Rockies.
Thorne skied the Icefield with Jim, a couple other friends, and a guide, and said it was incredibly difficult because of the long distance and the steep hills, but she did manage to make it across.
“I didn’t really have any choice, nobody was going to come get me,” she said. “But we just did it for fun. That was Jim’s idea of a holiday!”
The Thornes try to go to the Rockies every year to hike and ski in the winter when they can. Thorne’s most memorable hikes include Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park, which they’ve done a few times, as well as the Rockwall in Kootenay National Park, near Lake Louise in Alberta.
“The Rockwall in the Rockies, that was harsh.”
Thorne said the hike involves going over hills and passes, which are spectacular, but are also 10 kilometres over each pass.
But Thorne said that trip was still an incredible time and she definitely wants to keep doing more hikes and ski trips. She also wants to encourage more people to get out to the cross country ski trails at Onion Lake, especially as people start looking for sports and activities to do during the pandemic.
“Cross country skiing is going to be the sport to deal with COVID because it’s so easy to physical distance,” Thorne said. “People who want to get away from it all can get away from it all the way to Onion Lake.”
Thorne is excited for the upcoming ski season to get back out on the trails and out into the great outdoors.
“Once you’re on the trails, it’s just the best thing that you could be doing,” she said. “As long as I can go, I will continue to go.”