Peter Wiltmann was born in Bad Rothenfelde, Germany in 1958. He grew up with his three brothers on their family farm in the northern German countryside. His family also owned a sandpit which was turned into a small lake, called the Heidesee. It was here that his family enjoyed many summers of swimming and water-skiing. In the wintertime they travelled to the Alps for downhill ski vacations, nurturing Peter’s love of snow.
Peter and his family came to Canada in 1975 to Wawanaisa Resort in Carling Township and Peter quickly fell in love with Georgian Bay. The snowy winters and lack of hills led to his discovery of cross-country skiing, which soon became his passion. At the resort in the summer, he enjoyed teaching guests to waterski and windsurf. It was during these lessons that he realized that any sport can be learned, and its mastery can be taught.
The game of hockey was a novelty back in Germany, with very few winters cold enough for ice and Peter was looking forward to playing the sport in Canada. The local rinks, lakes, and ponds in the Parry Sound area provided ample opportunity to skate and play hockey for hours on end, with “shinny” being his favorite. A short stint with the Junior C team in Parry Sound was an eye opener of just how tough that sport gets.
Peter met his wife Dorte on a visit back to Germany. They married in 1982 and have operated Wawanaisa together in the years since. Their sons, Victor and Konrad, enjoyed growing up in the area and started to ski as soon as they could walk. With the busy summer season at the resort, family time was reserved for the winter months which involved lots of cross-country skiing.
Inspired by local teachers, Peter started coaching cross-country skiing by helping elementary schools at lunch breaks. Peter was impressed by how it was not just fun, but how it positively affected all the children involved. Georgian Nordic Outdoor Activity Centre, the Parry Sound area’s local club, provided a popular jackrabbit program for young skiers. In order to keep youth in the sport once they aged out of the jackrabbit program, Peter took a track attack team through several years of developing stages going to many races in Ontario, including the Ontario Winter Games and Midget Championships. Victor and Konrad loved the camaraderie of being part of a team, continuing to ski right through high school and university.
After that stage, Peter realized that only year-round training would prepare young skiers for advancing to further competitive skiing. In 2009 Peter asked Georgian Nordic to support a full-time volunteer position as head coach, and thus began the Junior team.
In the beginning only a few skiers showed up to practice, but it quickly grew into a team of vastly different personalities and abilities. They enjoyed meeting regularly with others who also wanted to train, compete, and have some adventures together. Peter sees immense value for youth in the mental and physical preparations needed to meet the challenges of high-performance competitions of the Ontario Cup series, Nationals, and skiing for life.
The most rewarding aspect of coaching for Peter is the regular interaction with an athlete in both good and tough times, never hesitating to find answers if needed. Peter hopes that the graduates from the Junior program had as much fun as he had while developing more life skills along the way. Some of his former students stay in touch on a regular basis.
Parents have commented that what they appreciate most about Peter’s coaching style is his dedication and inclusiveness in his lessons. He has never been one to focus on results, instead emphasizing the process and journey of becoming a well-rounded athlete while making sure everyone has equal opportunities, but always with fun being the top priority.
Peter coaches with a holistic approach. He cares about each of his athletes tremendously and tailors his training plans and sessions individually to make sure the athlete develops in all aspects of their life. He has a gift to connect with every athlete, is open and he loves to learn along with his team. Peter’s sense of humour helps create a team atmosphere where belonging is a big part, but also fosters a sense of wanting to perform at their personal best for each athlete.
As a coach there have been many accomplishments for Peter. Aside from helping foster a love of skiing in local youth, he has coached and helped his athletes to be able to compete at an elite level. Graham Ritchie and Shaylynn Loewen, alumni of the Junior team, were both selected to the National Ski Team in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and train at the National Team Development Centre in Thunder Bay. Another athlete and former student, Matjaz Cigler represented Canada at the 2019 World University Games in Russia.
Peter’s athletes appreciate how lucky they are to have a volunteer coach who devotes so much time and effort for the benefit of others. Shaylynn Loewen noted “largely due to the fact the Peter volunteers his time as a coach, and his willingness to deliver a program that suits each individual, the race program offered at Georgian Nordic provides opportunity for athletes to pursue the sport at whatever level they aspire to, without the constraints imposed by similar programs elsewhere (financial, time limitations, restriction by goals/commitment level etc.).”
In 2018 Peter was recognized with the Heinz Niederhauser Outstanding Coaching Award by Cross Country Ski Ontario for his significant, long-term commitment to coaching cross-country ski racing in Ontario. Peter Wiltmann has been, and continues to be, an exemplary member of the community, and one who truly encourages a love for sport and for the journey that it is. He is still looking forward to trying new things and programs yet. They will be about skiing no doubt.