He’s played a gold-digging miser, a grumpy granddad, and Ebenezer Scrooge himself. However, in real life, Vernon resident George Young is nothing like the roles he has embodied.
Both locals and those who visited Caravan Farm Theatre in Spallumcheen last winter likely saw Young live up to his name, when he ran around the farm’s forest and field wearing nothing but a nightshirt, robe and cap as the Scrooge-like figure in The Orphan’s Dream.
He is also one of the founders of Asparagus Community Theatre in Armstrong.
At 75, Young has never let his age stop him from physically demanding pursuits. And that includes his other role as a ski instructor at Silver Star Mountain Resort. He has been helping beginner, novice and experienced skiers parallel the slopes on and off since the summer Olympics were held in Montreal.
“I first taught here from 1976 to 1981. I have been full time now since 1996,” said Young, while enjoying a hot beverage at Bugaboos bakery in Silver Star’s village.
A certified CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance) Level 3 ski instructor, Level 3 course conductor, who is also certified in nordic and telemarking, Young is the second longest serving instructor at Silver Star. The first is none other than George Goudge, who was the ski school director for Silver Star from 1972 to 1982 when Young first arrived on the scene.
Born and raised in Toronto, Young originally came to the North Okanagan because of skiing. He spent a few years teaching in Germany before making the move west with his wife Joanne and their young family.
“When we got back from Germany, I knew I didn’t want to live in Toronto. I wanted to be out west. My sister was in Vernon, so I asked her if (Silver Star) was a good hill,” said Young.
The answer was obvious.
“We only had three chairs, three t-bars, and a Poma seat back then. The green (Summit) chair is the only remaining one left. It was just the front side, but it was great skiing. There was no village. The main lodge was the Pinnacles. The old school and rentals is gone now. The current village was a parking lot.”
The antithesis of the grumpy grandpa/father he played in On Golden Pond for Asparagus Community Theatre 10 years ago, Young has passed on his love of acting and skiing to his children.
The patriarch of a very successful theatrical family, Young’s daughter Jenny is an actor known for her roles in The Shape of a Girl, The Syringa Tree, as well as in the CBC Radio teleplay Afghanada. And his son, Jonathon, also an actor and director, is known for his role of Nikola Tesla on the SyFy show Sanctuary and is the co-founder of Electric Company Theatre company in Vancouver.
In a live interview, Jonathan told an audience that George often brought him and his sister to watch him act in Asparagus productions, and that is where their love for theatre began.
Young’s other son, Christopher, 44, has followed in his father’s foot steps, make that ski boots. He is also a ski instructor at Silver Star, as is Young’s granddaughter Taiid Haines-Young, 19.
“We are a three-generation ski instructing family,” said Chris, who has been teaching at Silver Star for the past five or so years.
Raised in both Armstrong and Vernon, Chris did some acting, but ended up working as a professional chef mostly in the Vancouver area.
“I used to ski race as well, but I got out of it when I started raising my kids. I hated the fact I left, so I called up Cypress when I was 29-30 and turned to snowboarding,” he said.
Chris would end up teaching for three winters at West Van’s Cypress Bowl after getting his CSIA level 1 and 2 certification.
“I was always coming to Silver Star while living on the coast,” he said.
Chris’ daughter, Taiid, is now in her second season working in Silver Star’s ski school and just passed her CSIA level 2 in December.
“I have been teaching mostly the four-to-six years olds in the Ready Teddies. Half the time, I am dealing with crying kids who are being separated from their moms. The other half is building snowmen and bombing down the hill,” she laughed. “I also love to tell people that my grandpa’s an instructor here… All my friends know George. He is a legend.”
“It’s nice to have worked professionally with all my kids, including Jon and Jenny. They also both come up here to go skiing,” said Young.
Skiing, like acting, is all about dealing with fears, he added.
“Dealing with fear is a good skill. It’s about being pushed into the unknown. Some don’t like being out of their comfort zone, but once you go there, it gets better.”
Locals and visitors heading to Silver Star, which closes down for the season April 9, can expect Young to be pointing his skis forever downwards.
Next stop is the stage.