Vanita Haining: Honoured Ski Team Alumni
Dedicating over five decades to ski racing as an athlete, coach, mentor, official and volunteer
Canmore (AB) – Like so many of her generation, Canadian ski icon Nancy Greene was the early inspiration for Vanita Haining to become a ski racer. Spurred on by her father, Robert, along with siblings and cousins and under the guidance of the coaches of the Calgary Skimeisters, she began a decade-long journey that took her from the slopes of the Canadian Rockies right to the World Cup.
“After watching my cousins race at Lake Louise, my sister pestered my dad so we could do the same thing” reminisced our Honoured Athlete Alumni. “We were permitted to enter a race at Westcastle (now Castle Mountain Resort) as a trial. I remember getting lost several times on the way down and finished last a couple of minutes behind everyone else.”
With coaches Ken Marchand (2014 Honoured Coach, Leader & Sport Builder), Ed Novotni, Bob & Ron Pearce and Leo Berchtold, the Haining sisters were introduced to rigorous dryland programs and on-snow training both in and out of the gates. “In those days the Skimeisters club skied out of Norquay. We spent a lot of time on the old chair skiing the Lone pine, the Bowl, and the North American with gate training on the rope tow beside the ski jump. We were lucky to be able to watch the 1972 World Cup GS and Slalom.”
Vanita progressed quickly, becoming a member of the Alberta Ski Team in 1972. Team coach Ottmar Setzer instilled a discipline in his charges that brought rapid progress. “There were lots of stories we circulated about Ottmar because he as so tough. Needless to say you did not whine, ever.”
She was named to the Canadian Team in 1974, with her focus on the Can-Am (now Nor-Am Tour) and World Cup starts in Canada, the US and Europe. “My last two years of competition were the most fruitful: in 1977 I was 4th overall Can-Am series with several top 3 results including 2nd in slalom in Sun Valley Idaho, 3rd in downhill at Red Mountain and I won the Canadian Dual Slalom Championship. In 1978 was Canadian Slalom Champion (Shell Cup at Marmot Basin) and retired at the end of that season (age 22) to pursue a university education.”
Moving immediately into the coaching ranks, Vanita brought her ski racing experience back to the Skimeisters while completing her BA (Economics) at the University of Calgary and following graduation with the Big White Ski Team. During her school years, she extended her coaching role to teaching and examining new coaches through the Canadian Ski Coaches Federation.
The influence of the 1988 Olympics then drew our Honoured Athlete Alumni into her third career in ski racing: as an official. “I was recruited in the season following the ’88 Games by Gottfried Mueller, who was looking for TD candidates. I advanced my officials training and was very active volunteering and officiating from then until 2011.” At the time, Vanita was one of the few female Technical Delegates. “I found that the experience gave me opportunities for learning that my career (my paying job) did not provide. I also enjoyed conducting many officials training courses, which gave me the opportunity to meet just about everyone involved in the sport in Alberta.”
She extended her love for ski racing to both children, with daughter Suzanne and son Sean racing for Calgary Alpine (CARC). Sean followed in the footsteps of his mom, reaching the Alberta Ski Team and subsequently racing for the University of Alaska Seawolves achieving NCAA all-American status in 2012, 2015 and 2016.
Professionally, Vanita is a Human Resources specialist working for Total Energy. It comes as no surprise she willingly shares the personal influence of her sport. “Ski racing provided me with an outlet and a place where I could thrive. In this environment I learned how to be disciplined, how to apply myself (how to set goals and work towards them), work ethic and how to focus. It was a great place and way to grow up. And with only 3 athletes on the podium vs. 60+ athletes in the race, ski racing has got to be about more than just winning.”
The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame is pleased to recognize Vanita Haining, our 2016 Honoured Alberta and Canadian Ski Team alumni for more than 50 years of dedication as an athlete, coach, mentor, official and volunteer.
The Class of 2016 will be inducted Tuesday, November 8th between 4:30 to 8:00 pm at the Calgary Petroleum Club. This is a free event for all supporters of alpine ski racers.