It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of “Amazing Grace” Oaks on Saturday, 23 January 2021, in Vancouver, after a short battle with cancer. Grace was a force to be reckoned with when it came to Masters’ racing that she took up later in life, when a member at Toronto Ski Club located on the north end of Blue Mountain. Grace was “Champion of Champions” in 2004 being the inauguration year of this award. Grace attained CMAT in 2005, 2006 and 2015. Grace often competed in the US with impressive results at the US Nationals. Grace also appeared in the documentary film “Ski Legends” produced in 2019 that is available on Amazon Prime.
Danielle Oaks (daughter) | ON
My mom, Elsie Grace Oaks, died yesterday, peacefully in her sleep at the North Shore Hospice in Vancouver. She was 86. She was an inspiration to many, a great athlete and competitor. She was even a movie star!
A sister, sister-in-law, aunt, cousin, mother-in-law and Grandma, she was a wonderful mother and for all of us, a generous friend.
Mom wants a Celebration of Life in the West and one in the East when we can all gather again.
I am grateful to the Lions Gate Hospital and North Shore Hospice, in Vancouver, where mom received her final care. They were so respectful, compassionate and professional.
For those of you who knew about mom’s sudden hospitalization and sent messages, please know that she received them all, including the one about a certain Blue Jays acquisition and a fly-by over Whistler!
If you ski – have a run in her honour, and go fast.
If you bike – do a leg-burner like she did six times last summer on the Scenic Caves Road.
If you golf – hit a drive straight and true, she’ll be envious!
I know you will think of her and will never forget her. How could you?
She was Amazing Grace.
Mike Robbins | Osler Bluff Ski Club ON
Grace showed us all how to stay active (and healthy) right until the end. She will be sorely missed in the alpine Masters’ community.
Judi Sheppard | Osler Bluff Ski Club ON
“I don’t believe in age
I believe in energy
Don’t let age dictate what you can do and cannot do.”
This could have been written by Grace. She was the poster child for “age is just a number.” I first met Grace in the 1980s, clad in a downhill suit, when most Masters’ racers were racing in sweaters and Schneider Hosen. From our first meeting, she was a huge inspiration for me and all Masters’ ski racers.
Little did I know that our friendship would last for over 35 years and we would go on many memorable journeys together. She made every day count…every hour count. She lived life to the fullest. She had boundless energy and determination. I never saw her tired or heard her complain.
We all know about her passion for skiing and ski racing, golf and cycling. But, she never stopped trying new sports. This past summer, she was starting to play pickle ball and had taken up stand-up paddle board.
She did a monthly ride up the Scenic Caves Road. In September, – instead of heading home – she cycled into Town to tell me she had “done September.” Wow! Most of us would have gone home and taken a hot bath!
She was a wonderful hostess and loved to cook. During Covid, she managed to hold a scaled down version of her annual BBQ; a hot event on the Collingwood social calendar.
As we were both on our own during Covid, we spent a lot of time together this past summer in our gardens (social distancing) moving plants around and pruning shrubs. Grace had a chain saw, which she wielded with great vigor and enthusiasm.
She was an avid reader and kept a journal of the books she had read. For several years, she read books only in French to keep up her French. I suggested she read “Alias Grace” but before I could send her a copy, she announced she had found a copy and had read it.
She was charitable by nature and very generous to her family and friends. She was a volunteer for many events, including theatre and other special events and, weekly, at the hospital in Collingwood.
Grace inspired me to push my limits: rollerblading, training slalom on asphalt; the Peak to Valley race; Canadian Masters’ Champs, USA Masters’ Champs and International Masters’ Champs. We did the Ride to Conquer Cancer together and shared a tent on a soggy football field. Wonderful memories!
Thank you, Grace. We “believe in energy”. Age is, after all, just a number.
Grace was a legend in her own time and we celebrate the life of this remarkable woman. She truly was Amazing Grace.
Lou Fenninger | Fenninger Racing ON
Our great friend “Amazing Grace” Oaks passed away on Saturday, 23 January 2021, at 4 pm PST, in Vancouver, with her daughter at her side. She left us with lots of love and great memories. We think of her friendship enthusiasm and generosity. Her love of skiing and competition was epic. We will miss you dearly but remember all the great times we had. Thank you Gracie RIP.
Grace was a great friend to all. Always ready to help her friends at races, no matter whether they were her competition or not. She was kind and not boastful. Grace would ski anything!
She loved to put people (mainly men) in their place by skiing Peak to Creek non-stop…and fast! She won more races than anyone I know, by a lot!! Male or female. She has her name on the Whistler Peak to Valley trophy more than anyone else! She also tuned her own skis better than most! She trained hard and constantly. Always looking to get better.
In her 80s she won the hula hoop contest at Dusty’s; not an easy feat for anyone, at any age!!
At my first national race at Whistler, I didn’t know anyone; I was sitting alone and she came over to where I was and introduced me to the gang of local racers. It made my day!
Denyse Houde | International Masters Academy ON
In 1984, Grace joined the Toronto Ski Club to learn to race; the 50 year old ski instructor quickly became “Amazing Grace, the strong Master’s Racer”.
Grace and I met during house league training and raced on the TSC Interclub team for many years. Being 10 years her junior, I was impressed with her performance and wanted to be just like her when I grew up.
We became long-term traveling partners with our first out-of-province competition being the Canadian Masters’ Championships (Whistler 1986). Then we added international racing to our itinerary (US Nationals: Mammoth Mountain 1987) and moved up to the FIS Masters’ Cup level (Sun Valley ID 1988 and Val Zoldana ITA 1989). Like the Energizer Bunny, Grace kept on going… and going… and winning podiums on the Grey Circuit. She earned her last FIS Masters’ Cup gold medals at Big Sky MT in March 2018.
Grace was a natural athlete who continued to exude self-confidence, discipline and energy to do her best in every sport she undertook. Many skiers, cyclists and golfers will miss her.
Jules Lajoie | BC Masters’ Rep
Our dear Grace Oaks, known to many Canadian Masters, passed away around 4 pm PST, January 23, after a short battle with cancer. Her daughter Danielle was with her. Grace had started the ski season in Whistler but soon came down with symptoms that were diagnosed around mid-December. Grace was an icon in Whistler and loved by everyone. It won’t be the same at our races not seeing her first out of the start gate, always pushing as hard as she could. I was very impressed how she always strived to improve her technique in our training sessions and she was achieving that. Grace will be sorely missed.
Randall Carpenter | Whistler BC
I first met Grace in the eighties. I was learning to ski and she decided I could do it faster by racing. We fit together well – our dynamics driven by this amazing woman’s encouragement and enthusiasm for just about everything!
We raced the local hills in Ontario together and I loved meeting all the Masters’ skiers Grace introduced me to – she was already a local legend. Grace thought we needed longer runs so why not start with the US Nationals in Breckenridge? Travel was simpler then but we complicated it as much as possible with 5 pairs of skis each and our Canadian style – we both liked to dress up and dance. Grace was known to have climbed up on a few bar tables after some beers, never missing a step or a turn as she conquered a slalom, never showing any fear on a downhill run and just enjoyed getting older as long as it meant a better start number!
Park City, Mammoth, Jackson Hole, Big Sky, we loved the venues and of course US Masters’ enthusiasm. Along the way I had a few knees go but Grace was never injured and usually won her age category. We travelled well, looked out for one another and formed a team for Whistler’s famous 200 gate Peak to Valley, defying logic by fielding a team of 3 women. Grace and I anchored but with Bonnie Weigele or Sandy Hogan as the 3rd woman (the lone male always added with much discussion about what fast guy could we get that wouldn’t screw up) – sometimes being fast and finishing doesn’t always connect with them – we were “Babes with Age” and for some years the oldest, fastest team on the mountain! At least the only team anchored by three fast older women!
I will never forget Grace, her black and white outfits matched her attitude – you won or you lost, always reminding me, winning isn’t everything, but losing sure sucks. We have lost one of the great ones.