“It requires a lot of discipline to stay on the trail – not just the ski trail,” says Gary Bailie, “but
the trail of life.”
Skiing is definitely a way of life for Bailie, who has been running and coaching the Whitehorse-based youth cross country team the Kwanlin Koyotes since 1999. His hard work and dedication to his community through this venue has recently been recognized on a national level. This past March Bailie was awarded the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, an award presented to Canadian volunteers who have made significant and continuous contributions to their communities.
In January of 2016, Bailie was also recognized at the territorial level for his contribution to the community, and was presented with the Commissioner’s Award for Public Volunteer Service.
Bailie is a member of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and describes himself as, “a true Yukon homeboy.” The Koyotes Ski Club is run out of the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre, which is itself on traditional Kwanlin Dun territory; but the club, and cross country skiing, Bailie says, are not just for native youth.
“It’s multicultural, because kids are kids,” he says. “And adults, too, because adults are just kids in older bodies… As (the Kwanlin Dun) we are the traditional hosts of the land, and part of the idea (of being a host) is welcoming people.”
Part of the idea of the club, Bailie says, is to promote a healthy mind in a healthy body, through getting back to the land and participating in healthy activities. Cross country skiing is perfect for this.
“It gets you back to the bush,” he says. “Skiing is very Zen for me. Being on the trail saved my life a thousand times – it’s a Zen sport that helps me stay positive and alive and I want to share that with people. The bush is the ideal place for people to be creative, to think.”
Bailie is also the organizer of the annual Blue Feather Music Festival, and says his two volunteer interests compliment each other.
“Skiing is about a healthy lifestyle and Blue Feather is about using arts and music as a healing tool.”
While Bailie himself has been recognized for his contributions to the community and his place in it as a role model for youth, he says he himself was influenced by the work and tutelage of Catholic Oblate Father J.M. Mouchet. Mouchet died in 2013 at the age of 96 and was a proponent of cross country skiing among youth in the territory.
“Mouchet did good work on this planet and he gave me the tools to help myself,” Bailie says.
Bailie deeply wants to be a good role model for the kids with whom he works and believes strongly in the Kwanlin Koyotes.
“Kids are great at listening to things, but they will see you and imitate what you do. And I want to be a good example every day. When you’re healthy, everything is better.”