In Memoriam - Thelma Watts
Though raised in B.C., Thelma only started her skiing career as a result of meeting two ski instructors in a pub called the Barmaids Arms in Toronto who convinced her to join the North Toronto Ski Club!
That first year (1970) Thelma won the Best First Year Lady Skier award from the NTSC. She later went on to receive her Level I certification and started working with the NTSC under Dan Genge. In her years with NTSC Thelma served on the Board of Directors of NTSC in many capacities including VP, Secretary, Newsletter, bus captain, director of Variety Night etc. Along the way, Thelma took the Level II Course and received the Ed Palen award for outstanding contribution to the club.
Greg Grinter, a fellow instructor, recruited Thelma to the Craigleith Ski Club where Alf Warll was the Ski School Director, the staff numbered 15 - 20 and Thelma was still a Level I. “I was teaching children (which I still love to do) initially and took on adult students as well. I initiated fun races for the children’s programs with balloons and hula- hoops as props.” Thelma then taught under Carol Miles, Mike Kristy, Andi Ciotti and finally under Jeff & Sonja Dawson. “In the meantime, I took my Level II for the second time, and passed. Felt really chuffed, as they say. Can’t think of anything I have done since that made me prouder.” In her years with Craigleith, Thelma received the Award of Merit (‘85 and ‘90) and the Craigleith President’s Award in 2000 (the first employee to ever win this award that was not a member of the club).
Among her other contributions to the Craigleith Snow School, Thelma initiated the Mentor Program. “I initiated this for a couple of reasons. I wanted to ensure that everyone joining our ski school felt at home and welcome. It can be very daunting to go to a club where everyone is well acquainted and you feel like the “new kid on the block” and an outsider. ‘New’ means you are new to the club not new to instructing. A 30 something instructor may be paired with an 18 year-old veteran or vice versa. The relationship is about ensuring the new instructor learns the ropes from someone who is comfortable with the established routine. I have had very positive feedback about the program even though I have paired a “new” 30+ year old Level III instructor with a 19 year-old Level I veteran.”
Working as a very busy sales agent, Thelma found time to serve five years on the CSIA Ont. Board of Directors. From 1987 through 1991 Thelma managed the Secretary, AGM/Awards, PD Day, Assistant Newsletter, Skimp Day, Fun Day Portfolios and completed her term on the Board as Chair. In 1989, Thelma, along with Andi Ciotti, set up the first Ladies Professional Training Day (now the CSIA Women’s PTS).
In 2001, Thelma was inducted into the CSIA (Ont) Hall of Fame. At that time, Andi probably described Thelma best when she wrote: “she is the type of instructor who is just always there! She always shows up and is willing to volunteer for anything and everything. She is not afraid to express her opinion - especially if it is something to do with making the snow school (and the CSIA) better.”
Thelma had a way of working with people on the hill that made them feel comfortable and reach their potential. She was one of the most requested instructors ever at Craigleith Ski Club and she taught up until 2016. She was able to make some turns in February 2017 which she commented that even though they were tentative, she was back in her “happy place”. She will be greatly missed by her ski family there and all the others she touched along the way.
Thelma loved a good laugh, was strong minded, optimistic and was definitely not shy to voice her political opinion, She loved books, nature, photography and she was very proud of her garden and house in Acton. She also loved, loved, loved her rescue dog Abby.