Maureen O’Hara-Leman: Honoured Builder

A transformative leader who has shaped and lifted our sport.

Canmore, AB – Through five decades of dedication, Maureen O’Hara-Leman has taken the enthusiasm she discovered for skiing with her Dad and shared it through instruction, coaching and leadership.

Maureen was first introduced to skiing as an 11-year old when her family moved to Calgary. The oldest of 4 children (3 younger brothers, all hockey players), Maureen signed up for ski lessons on arrival in Calgary at the legendary Happy Valley Ski Hill (now Valley Ridge community). She was hooked and it became the special thing she did with her dad.

Maureen’s passion for skiing grew exponentially.  In high school, she always had a season pass at Lake Louise and it was nothing to drive to/from the mountains both days on weekends to ski.  Loving both skiing and a challenge, she commenced her CSIA designation while still in High School.  She gained experience teaching skiing in those early days at Happy Valley, then Paskapoo (Canada Olympic Park).   Part of the ski school experience included races, in which Maureen loved and excelled. 

Maureen moved onto the pursuit of a University Education. While in university, the sport kept pulling her back to the skiing world making her completion of her degree a bit non-conventional due to taking several years off to spend winters on the slopes in Western Canada. She eventually returned to school at the University of Guelph where they recruited her to the Alpine Ski Team because she was from Alberta and could ski!!  That was the introduction to FIS like racing and slalom and GS.

After graduation, Maureen returned to Calgary to work at Mount Royal College teaching Anatomy and Physiology to nursing students for the next couple of years and continued to actively ski and teach part time.  The contract with MRC left the summers open and she spent 5 summers in New Zealand eventually moving to teaching year round, New Zealand in the summers and Europe in the winters for Club Med.  While with the Ecole de Ski Francais in those European locations, it was a requirement to train slalom and GS.  By the time Maureen returned to Lake Louise Ski School she was well acquainted with running gates, and by this time, she had her Level III CSIA Level II certification. in 1980, she returned to Calgary to teach one more winter at MRU, of course teaching and skiing at Lake Louise on the side.  It was at Lake Louise where she met her husband Chris who had just embarked on his alpine coaching career. They were married and moved back to Calgary in 1984.

Following a brief exploration with a conventional career, and the arrival of her first child Brady, Maureen returned to the world of ski school operations.  Maureen ran the ski school at Wintergreen for 5 years, followed by 10 years at C.O.P.    During this time, Maureen and Chris had a second child, Kayla, and the family was pulled further into the world of ski racing in Alberta with Chris accepting head coach roles, first with Banff Alpine Racers (BAR), followed by Mt Norquay ski club and eventually Calgary Alpine (CARC). Soon after, the children took a lead role, as their natural skiing talent quickly made itself evident.  Many of us with children skiing in that era recall Brady near the top of the finish results, and Kayla “dominating her K1-K2 races. 

In 2001 Maureen accepted the role as President , Alberta Alpine where she spent the next 7 years coordinating, organizing, building and  promoting the sport of  ski racing programs in Alberta.

Along the way, you can imagine how many skills Maureen had honed as she ran ski schools, built provincial ski racing programs, assisted ski clubs on how to host races and run programs, managed general chaos, recruited and organized volunteers, assisted with timing in the early days of ski cross.  Collectively all of these things made her a cherished contributor in the world of ski racing in our province.    Her list of accomplishments and contributions are many:

  • Timing crew work from Nancy Greene thru to Nor Ams over a period of 20+  years.
  • Ski Cross ladder and results person in the early development of the sport
  • Bozo and Kinder Cup start, board and result management since inception (circa 1997)
  • Race Chair/Chief of volunteers Lake Louise Nor Ams
  • Participation as the Leader Board and Scoring lead at the World Junior Alpine Champs

Before retiring, Maureen’s career shifted away from snowsports, as Director of Volunteers CEO for WorldSkills Calgary 2009. But the call of winter pulled her back as Executive Director for Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing (CADS), now known as Canadian Adaptive Snowsports.

Maureen’s fondest memories are of the many other volunteers, parents and officials she met over these years working races, watching the athletes progress and making lifelong friends.  Highlights are the many years working on the Lake Louise Nor Am races alongside many outstanding volunteers and the early years of contributing to/supporting the development and execution of Ski Cross Nationals / Nor Ams.

For Maureen and Chris, watching her children grow and develop in the sport, include the extraordinary highlights of Kayla winning Gold and Bronze medals at the Canadian K2 National Championships when she was 14 and being at the finish line when Brady won Olympic Gold medal in the 2018 Games of PeyongChang, Korea

Maureen says:  “When we are promoting the sport of Alpine Skiing and boldly stating that participation in ski racing programs teaches life skills, develops good life management tactics and coping skills, this is not exaggerating.  It is a very accurate description of the abilities of the vast majority of our alumni athletes.”

Maureen would counsel upcoming racers:  “have fun (you can quit anytime you aren’t enjoying it), listen to your coaches, race as fast as you can, enjoy your mountain time, be nice to your friends and family, it’s easier to climb the ladder than fall off, be proud of what you accomplish.   It all adds up.”

The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame is pleased to recognize Maureen O’Hara-Leman, our 2022 Honoured Builder, for a lifetime of commitment to alpine ski racing.

Please join us on November 8th at the Malcolm Hotel in Canmore to honour the Class of 2022.

Author: Vanita Haining.