Ski Atlantic Seniors' Club

Kell Antoft, our founder


Kell Antoft
Kell Antoft

Kell received his early education at King's County Academy, Kentville. He completed his B.A.in 1967 and M.A. in 1977, both from Dalhousie University. Kell served as a Royal Canadian Air Force navigator in Britain and Europe from 1943 to 1946, receiving the Defence Medal,the Voluntary Service Medal with Overseas Bar, and the Christian X Medal (Denmark). Following the war, he settled in Montreal where he founded two successful businesses: Viking Air Service, which supplied aircraft parts to European civilian airlines, and Nordic Biochemicals Ltd., noted for pioneering the isolation of growth hormones from the human pituitary gland. Kell sold his business interests in 1966 and joined the National Cancer Institute of Canada in Toronto as Assistant Executive Director, where his greatest contribution to cancer prevention involved generating the awareness of the link between smoking and cancer, work which continued for the remainder of his life through his involvement in the Canadian Cancer Society.

In 1969, he returned to Nova Scotia to accept an appointment at Dalhousie University, eventually becoming the Director of the Institute of Public Affairs, currently known as Henson College. During his tenure he launched a distinguished research career in local government, municipal planning, taxation and non-resident land ownership. Upon retirement in 1989, he was made an Adjunct Professor at Henson College.

An avid skier, Kell worked in various capacities with ski clubs and programs in Canada over the years. In 1968 he co-founded the Nancy Greene Ski league, a training program for youngsters. He was Founding President of the Nova Scotia Ski Areas Association (1972), and of the Ski Atlantic Seniors' Club (1989). Kell served on the board of the Canadian Ski Association and was a life member of the Canadian Ski Instructors' Alliance. For these efforts, he was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame as a Builder in 2000. Kell will always be remembered as a man of great integrity. In his youth, he co-founded the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Hostelling Association (1938), remaining active in the movement as a member of the Trustee Committee. He believed Canada would be a stronger country by developing its youth. From the beginning of the Katimavik program, founded in 1977 by Senator Jacques Hebert, Kell was involved at both provincial and national levels, and served as National President from 1986-1989. He also believed Canada needed to remain a country of peace and co-founded Veterans Against Nuclear Arms (VANA) and its affiliated organization, the Defence Research and Education Centre. Kell was tireless in his support for the NDP, at both provincial and national levels. Kell was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2001 and became a member of the Council of the Order of Nova Scotia on its establishment in 2002.

An Interview with Pat McCullock


For those of you who are new members of SASC, a brief introduction is in order. Kell is our "Founding" President and was the guiding force behind the club's formation. Back in 1989, retired and having more time to ski, he wanted to make sure that other retirees were motivated to enjoy the sport as well. Consequently, he organized a group called the Nova Scotia Seniors' Ski Club. With just a total membership of 24 in 1989, this small club has grown to more than 400+ members and we now know it as the Ski Atlantic Seniors' Club or SASC.

As SASC continues to grow, newer members are asking how the club was started and how we have come to number over 400 members. To explore the subject your Editor has asked Kell to agree to an interview before, (his words) " his long term memory goes the way of his short term grey matter".

Pat :: When and how did the Club originate?
Kell :: Well, I had skied and taught skiing as my winter recreation for most of my adult life, so I was keen to try the idea of a full time Ski Bum after retiring from regular employment. It disturbed me that many of my friends felt that skiing was too rigorous a sport for anyone nearing the 65 year moment in life. So that was the motivation to search for incentives to keep older skiers skiing. I had a bit of good will with the ski areas making up the Nova Scotia Ski Association, and after some friendly discussion, we agreed on a deal that might do the trick. It stated that the seniors' season pass be accepted on week days by every ski hill in the province. The annual fee was initially set at $99.00, to be collected by the Club and distributed on the basis of the number of ski visits to each area during the season. The arrangement went into effect in the 1990-91 season. Before Christmas, 24 grandmas and grandpas had signed up. I was relieved that I wouldn't be the only greying head on the slopes.

Pat :: How did the Club attract members ?
Kell :: The fun we were having was pretty obvious, so we received considerable publicity, both in the media and by word of mouth. As time went by, we developed mailing lists. attended ski shows and seniors' conferences, canvassed municipal recreation departments, and distributed our leaflets to sport shops and other places where oldsters hang out. As the ski areas saw the growth of this new clientele, they too became promoters of the Club. In the mid nineties we started to receive inquiries from New Brunswick and both Crabbe and Poley joined the Club's list of participants. At that point the name was changed to Ski Atlantic Seniors' Club (SASC) with incorporation under the Nova Scotia Societies Act. ( We are sometimes asked why we didn't adopt the simpler name, "Atlantic Seniors' Ski Club", but an examination of the resulting acronym may reveal the answer).

Pat :: Where did the members go to ski?
Kell :: From the start, our little band spread their skiing visits to each of the five areas in operation at that time - Wentworth, Martock, Keppoch, Ben Eoin, and Smokey. In the spring of 1991, we took our first out of province visit, a long weekend of spring skiing at Val d'Irene, Que. The following year, with more than double our initial membership, we ran our first European trip to Austria. That started a pattern of mid-season visits to major ski areas in Canada, the US and overseas. Austria was repeated and in the other years areas such as Tremblant, Sutton and Stoneham in Quebec; Panorama, Fernie And Sun Peaks in the West; and Sugarloaf and Sunday River in the USA.

Pat :: You mentioned that the season pass was initially limited to week days. How did it come to include weekends?
Kell :: At some point, several grandparents discovered that skiing was a good way of keeping in touch with their grandchildren. When Joey O'Brien noticed this at Martock, he approached the Club with the proposal to remove the weekday limitation. After discussing this with his colleagues in the ski area association, the proposal was accepted with a modest increase in the price of the pass. As he predicted, it has resulted in a turnout of more children who are delighted to keep their grandparents company on weekend fun days.

Pat :: Does the Club offer any other advantages?
Kell :: There are weekly "ski clinics" available at most of the areas. These are offered without cost by Club members who have maintained certification in the Canadian Ski Alliance and have served as instructors in the ski schools in our region. They are available on a volunteer basis to assist members learning to ski for the first time. This has been an important way of insuring that seniors are fully competent to ski in control before venturing out on the hills. But perhaps the most significant advantage is the social fellowship that forms as skiers meet in the lodge for coffee and for lunch, and the sense of shared adventure that grows from the enjoyment of a sport that has very few boring moments.

Pat :: How are the Club's affairs managed?
Kell :: After the first couple of years, the Club set up a Board of Directors to look after the direction and policies of the Club. As membership increased, the administrative tasks grew well beyond what could be reasonably managed by volunteer effort. For the first three or four years, membership registration and preparing passes had become a labour of love for Helen Gorman, (who, in 2000, was honoured for her work with a life membership in SASC). With the Club's increasing numbers, the task became overwhelming and the Club hired Mary Kitley to do the job of professional registrar with all the associated administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, mailing list maintenance, issuing season passes, and answering queries related to the Club.

Pat :: How do the members keep in touch with the activities of the Club?
Kell :: Well Pat, that is a question you should ask the Editor of Winter Words.