Some might call Alison Dakin a pioneer. Some might describe her experiences as epic. Some might go so far as to say she’s a living legend. But if you ask Alison you’re not going to hear much about any of it.
Alison is as humble as they come. She grew up just south of Golden with three sisters and no ski hill. That didn’t stop her from getting out on Nordic skis and even doing some ski touring in Rogers Pass with leather boots: “With the equipment, enthusiasm, and energy we ended up straight-lining a lot. Nobody told us about turns!”
But how does a mountain-straight-lining-country-bumpkin end up as a top ski guide and Great Canadian’s Assistant Guiding Operations Manager? “I got a summer job with the Alpine Club of Canada at their summer mountaineering camps. I basically washed dishes, cooked a bit and handled all the camp chores. It was a great job and it gave me the opportunity to meet some of Canada’s top guides of the time – in the late 70s and early 80s. Those guys were real ‘gentlemen of the mountains.’ While a lot of people think of them as some sort of untouchable heroes they were very humble and encouraging to a kid like me.”
While guiding has typically been a male realm, Alison was cutting her teeth at the same time as Sharon Wood, Helen Sovdat, Sylvia Forest and Diny Harrison so it seemed “normal.” … as normal as being on the leading edge of female guiding can be. It’s no surprise that she went on to found and operate Golden Alpine Holidays for 20 years – a series of three backcountry lodges that support ski touring trips.
When she got so busy that guiding didn’t seem to fit into her routine anymore, Alison sold Golden Alpine Holidays in 2006. She was enjoying time off in 2007 when some of the Great Canadian Guides tried to convince her to “come skiing on her birthday… oh… and bring your guiding equipment.” … the rest is history.
Just like the trail that Alison has blazed in the mountains around Golden, Great Canadian is also setting an example in heli-skiing with an industry-leading five female guides and one female pilot. As Alison says, “It just feels right. We’ve got a great dynamic within our guiding team and with the pilots – which I think has a lot to do with the male/female balance. We’re not hiring women just to have some ponytails and lighter helicopters – it’s just kind of happened this way and we’re stronger for it.”