Marj Ritcey and Dorothy Baillie: Honoured Lifelong Volunteers
Many (some?) of you will remember these two faces from the Alberta Alpine office. Their stories start out long before as their families were pulled into our sport as they supported their children’s endeavors. Originating from the Skimeister Ski Club, these two women epitomized the effort of many moms in every ski club in the least glamorous roles of: mom (chauffeur, cook, cleaner, alarm clock), club communications (endless telephone calls to communicate club schedules in the days before wireless communications), family shoulder to cry on, gate judge, score board recording, hand timing, gate judging …
Once their children had graduated and moved through the ranks, Marj and Dorothy accepted paid work at Alberta Alpine Association working as Administrative support as required. Marj and Dorothy kept things running at Alberta Alpine above and beyond their paid roles and helped to create a culture of excellence. Whether a parent had a question or a concern, a coach needed logistical support, or an athlete needed someone to simply chat with, both Marj and Dorothy represented Alberta Alpine with professionalism and care. These ladies exemplified hard work and expected the same from office staff, coaches and Athletes. Tasha Tallas: “As an athlete I felt an immense amount of respect for these two ladies.”
Marj and Dorothy were seen as mom’s to many athletes (not just their own nests). To award these two women is also to recognize all the moms in our sport often relegated or electing to take the less glamourous but important volunteer jobs. One could not be recognized without the other, so here are their respective stories:
Marj’s skiing activities began in Schefferville, Quebec in 1968 when she introduced son Kurt to the sport. It continued in 1969 at Smokey Mountain near Labrador City where there was an established ski hill and a burgeoning alpine ski training program for young skiers. At Smokey Mountain, Marj learned to ski and enjoyed the associated social activities. Marj, Bob and family (Kurt, Lynn, John and Jeff) moved to Calgary in 1974 and right away inquired about where and how to resume the skiing adventure. It was a fortunate contact with Jack Sandercock (2015 Hall of Fame Honoured Lifelong Volunteer) that led to the introduction to the Skimeisters of Calgary club, the Paskapoo slope and coach Ken Marchand.
Dorothy’s involvement in skiing started as a search for a sport that the family could do together. Dorothy and her husband, Bill, enrolled Brian and daughter Kathy) in lessons at Happy Valley Ski Area, one of the original local small river valley ski areas. Shortly after that first experience, the family was drawn to the Skimeisters of Calgary’s NGSL because Brian’s good buddies, Steve Fischer and Ken Anderson had already had joined. It was 1975 and in those days the Skimeister program was based out of Mt Norquay. In 1976, Bob Steckle the area manager at Fortress Mountain (who also had three children in Skimeisters) invited the club to make Fortress Mountain their base ski area (Norquay by that time had several clubs competing for hill space). With this move, Dorothy and Bill began to ski with their children and eventually began renting a room at fortress mountain as did many of the other Skimeister families. Not only did the room rentals make life less hectic, but the overall experience created a family experience the Baillie’s shared with other Skimeister families, many of whom became life long good friends. Dorothy reminisces, ‘As a family we really looked forward to our weekends, being in close proximity to watch our children grow, receive great coaching and most of all having fun’. That search for a family centered sport really materialized and grew beyond Dorothy and Bill’s original expectations.
Once involved with ski racing, Marj and Dorothy’s stories are parallel with small deviations. Ski racing was a family activity – about equal with work and education. Dry land training, mid-week training on snow (Paskapoo) and the weekends at the mountains – Norquay and then Fortress. All of those required that everyone knew what was going on. It was apparent almost immediately that significant coordination was needed among the skiers and parents so that everyone involved knew what was planned and happening. Marj’s interest and skills in communicating came readily into play whereby she gradually developed into helping the club become a cohesive, functioning unit. Marj even had a second telephone line installed at home so that her family would have access to a line. A Skimeisters Parents Club was very active and a telephoning committee handled the needed communications. In the mid 1970’s communications were face-to-face, telephone land line and Canada Post. In a large club like the Skimeisters was in the 70’s, this meant many hours on the telephone. Answering machines had not even been invented at that time so let your imagination grasp that endeavor. Marj and Dorothy Baillie were the key communicators and coordinators that helped enable the activities to occur.
As with most of the skiers’ parents, Marj and Dorothy were also active on-hill supporter of the racers and club. They both served in numerous functions with increasing responsibilities as their experience grew. These activities included gate keeping, timing (hand and electric), finish referee and race secretary. On top of those, there was the inevitable and necessary fund raising. The club grew, as did others, to the point where ski coaches needed to be hired and paid for their knowledge, skills and efforts. Marj served as Chairman of the Alberta Cup competition for a number of years. This broadened her work province wide due to the required close coordination with and of all of the alpine skiing clubs.
In 1984, Marj became an employee of the Alberta Alpine Ski Association and began as an office assistant to Ron and Sherry Anderson. The office was then located in NE Calgary and later moved to Canada Olympic Park. The office quite quickly grew in activities and responsibilities and Marj’s job expanded to Office Administrator. Then, an assistant was needed and Dorothy Baillie was recruited. So their partnership supporting ski racing continued. Indeed, they worked together in the Alberta Alpine office until their retirement in 2004. Over that 20 year period, they worked with 4 presidents and numerous ski coaches. In addition to all of the management of records, information, communications, etc., they interacted with the coaches and officials of all of the ski clubs, Alpine and related skiing organizations across Canada, ski racers and parents. Communications was their forte.
In addition to the office work, Marj and Dorothy both worked at many competitions: club races, FIS races, Norams, World Cup races and the 1988 Winter Olympics. Marj served for many years on the Alberta Alpine Scholarship Committee.
The key factors that influenced Marj in her skiing career were her interests in the development of her family and her natural social interests. Her work with the alpine skiing community at large provided the opportunities to participate constructively and enjoyably in its beneficial social activities. An unintentional benefit of her efforts in the ski and sports community was its effect on her immediate family as well as her skiing family – the latter being all of the young people she met and knew quite well as they worked to develop their skills in alpine skiing. Marj’s presence and work with these young people while being a constant in the Alpine office was a stabilizing influence for those young people as they matured as people as well as athletes. It was a pleasure for Marj to be able to observe those people develop relationships which, in many cases, became long term friendships.
Dorothy reflects that ski racing at the club level is a wonderful family sport in which both children and parents can participate. It promotes a healthy lifestyle and provides a vehicle through which both the racers and parents will make new contacts and form lifetime friendships. Sadly, she sees the cost of participating in this sport moving out of reach for many people and feels efforts should be taken to try and reduce the cost of participation through more volunteer coaching, fund raising and club promotion so that future generations racers and parents can love this sport as much as we have. Dorothy says her fondest memories of her 20 years at Alberta Alpine were:
The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame is pleased to recognize Marj Ritcey and Dorothy Baillie as our 2021 Honoured Volunteers, for a lifetime of passion for ski racing and as ambassadors to the sport.
Authors: Vanita Haining & Bob Ritcey