Lois Marleau has been keeping busy in Kitimat for 66 years — tai chi, pickleball, table tennis, line dancing and ukelele groups all fill her time and keep her healthy.
Above all those activities, however, skiing remains number one.
The 88-year-old is a bit of a celebrity at the Hudson Bay Mountain Resort in Smithers, where she has been skiing since the mountain’s inception over 50 years ago.
Marleau was dubbed a “Legendary Local” by the resort in 2017 and received a free season pass for years of dedicated carving.
She’s showing no signs of slowing down, but she hasn’t always loved the sport.
“I didn’t learn to ski until I was 40,” she said. “But I’ve been skiing every season since then.”
As she eagerly awaits this year’s snowfall, she reminisced on all the years spent there with family and friends.
Her trips revolved around the rustic cabin she built in 1974 with her late husband Denis.
She regularly spends months at a time at the cabin, skiing until she gets her fill.
She said spending holiday breaks there is an important part of her winter. Her good health has allowed her to keep coming to the mountain year after year, although she acknowledges it could be the skiing, or some of her many activities, that have helped keep her fit.
“It’s a really magical place,” she said.
Marleau has a long history in Kitimat, raising six kids and touching countless lives in the area. She arrived in Kitimat in 1956, following Denis, who came as a mechanic and found work at Kitimat Express and Kitimat Concrete.
During that time, she was a primary school teacher. For 22 years she educated many kids in Kitimat.
“It is certainly rewarding, seeing all the grown kids I taught over the years,” she said.
She also raised a large family that is now spread around the globe. She has six children and two grandchildren, Max and Miles.
Marleau retired young at 55, but staying true to herself, she couldn’t imagine a quiet life.
“I just think I had retired a little bit too early and I wanted something else,” she said.
Craving a career change, she received her real estate licence and worked as a real estate agent in Kitimat for eight years.
Now long retired, she made sure to shout out one of her favourite parts of Kitimat — the Riverlodge Recreation Centre.
“I’m awfully grateful for the center. I spend time there every day.”
Every weekday she pursues nearly every activity she can get involved in — tai chi, pickleball, table tennis, line dancing and ukelele playing to name a few.
Hearing her recount her days makes you wonder how she can be involved in so many activities.
“You can find me doing tai chi at 7 a.m.,” she said casually.
Her instant love of tai chi speaks to her willingness to try new things, and is a perfect example of never being too old to try something new.
“I think they gave a demonstration somewhere, and I thought ‘hey, I really like that. I took to it right away.’”
She even joked that it’s never too late to learn a new language.
“I have this lovely French name, but I don’t speak French,” she said. “It’s never too late to learn, I must remember that.”
Regardless of the activity, it’s clear when speaking with her that the community she’s built in Kitimat is immensely important to her.
“My husband’s gone, he’s passed now for 17 years. The community here is so special, this is home for me.”
Even with strangers, she’s keen to make new friends and explore other social outlets. One of her favourite parts of bundling up and heading to the mountain is the conversations she has on the chairlift.
“Everybody has a story, you know, and by golly, you can really get some interesting stories going up the chair,” she said.
Her cabin has been the heartbeat of her social and recreational life for nearly 50 years. Lighting the wood-burning stove and inviting her neighbours will always hold a place in her heart.
“It’s a place where people drop in and we play Scrabble or cards, it’s special.”
Truly a light in the community, her friends can’t help but sing her praises.
“She’s an inspiration,” said Marleau’s friend and tai chi partner Susan Jay. “I just admire her so much.”