If there were a Canadian hall of fame for sporting families, Kelowna’s amazing Athans clan would be inducted by unanimous first-ballot vote. Based on quantity, quality, and diversity, even other great athletic family acts like the Hulls, Patricks, Howes, Sutters, or Staals simply don’t stack up.

Freestyle skier Greg Athans is the third member of BC’s greatest sporting family to be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame, following in the footsteps of his diving father Dr. George Athans in 1968 and waterskiing brother George Athans Jr. in 1976. Mother Irene and brother Gary also merit serious consideration for their aquatic and downhill skiing accomplishments respectively.

Born and raised in a Kelowna cottage overlooking Lake Okanagan, Greg Athans grew up amidst an unmatched natural playground perfect for a young, sports-minded family.

“If you wanted to be involved in sports, what better place than a lake in front of you, five ski hills within forty minutes’ drive, and other athletic facilities,” summed up elder brother George Jr. “All you had to do was apply yourself.”

Greg certainly did, soaking up knowledge on the water and slopes from his family, while also teaching himself his own unique spin on his chosen sports. As a teen, he served notice as a young athlete to watch, becoming the first—and to date still the only—male athlete to win gold medals at both the Canada Winter and Summer Games, capturing the alpine slalom title in 1971 and the waterskiing crown in 1973.

After competing on the Pontiac and Can-Am alpine skiing circuits, Athans switched focus to freestyle skiing and exploded on the World Freestyle Tour in 1976 with a powerful, pioneering style never before seen. Over a six-year span from 1976-81, Athans excelled in all freestyle disciplines—the undisputed best of his era—winning four World Overall Champion titles, two World Mogul championships, one World Ballet title, and more than twenty World Cup and world championship victories. He also finished on the podium a remarkable sixty times and amassed 78 top-ten finishes.

Athans also ranked as a world-class water skier. He placed fourth overall at the 1977 world water ski championships in Milan, Italy, while helping Canada to a third-place finish in the team standings. He also won eight Canadian national water ski titles during his career.

Athans constantly worked to elevate the profile of freestyle skiing worldwide, appearing in three Warren Miller and two Dick Barrymore films, as well as countless American television appearances. In 1978, he published a comprehensive book on freestyle skiing, Ski Free. He also served as an athlete representative during freestyle skiing’s shift from professional to amateur status in 1980, which brought the sport under the FIS umbrella. It ultimately launched freestyle skiing into the Olympic Games beginning in 1988.

Following retirement, Athans continued to coach. The “Greg Athans Children’s Hospital Charity Ski Camp,” which he founded and organized, raised over $150,000 for the BC Children’s Hospital.

Sadly, Athans passed away in 2006 at the age of 51 due to diabetes complications. In an emotional celebration of life, family members scattered his ashes over the waters of his beloved Lake Okanagan, steps from where he was raised.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.