On Sunday, October 30 Nils Vikander passed away in Levanger, Norway at the age of 80. He is survived by his wife of 30 years Margarita who was by his side until his last days. Nils spent his life sharing his passion for Nordic skiing and his deep love for Nature. He inspired and mentored many and is known for his talents for connecting ideas and people.
Nils began his ski career in Sweden, where cross-country and Alpine skiing have been a part of winter season for generations of children, youngsters and adults. The whole family, which included four boys spent winter holidays on trails and slopes of Nordic landscapes. When Vikander family moved to Montreal they brought their passion for skiing overseas. Although as a student Nils devoted a lot of his time to swimming and had been a member of Swim Team McGill, cross country skiing had become his real passion, something he was burning for until the last days of his life. Nils participated in the Canada Games as an athlete in swimming and Nordic skiing. He also worked extensively as a coach as his career evolved in the Nordic skiing direction. He supported the Canada Games concept by speaking and writing about the importance of sport bringing people together. His own ski career continued when he moved back to Europe at the end of 1980s well into his 60s, and he had an impressive participation record in many different ski races in Sweden and Norway, including Vasaloppet and Birkebeiner.
Nils’ career as a Nordic ski coach took him all across Canada and the United States. Highlights include coaching the New Brunswick team and the Tobique Academy. He also worked as a coach in the Northwest Territories, Alberta and with the Lake Superior Division. In the United States, Nils was the head coach of the Montana State University team and also had a posting at the Telemark Academy in Wisconsin. He was very supportive of the idea of athletes having an opportunity to continue their studies while continuing to train and compete. In addition to regional coaching, Nils had many National coaching team assignments. His calm demeanour and his specialization in the psychology of sport made him a valuable member of the coaching teams.
In addition to coaching, Nils enjoyed the technical side of the sport. He served as a technical delegate for numerous national and international level competitions. Ski trail design and build projects were another area of technical interest. He had the skill to bring together talented trail designers and was known for bringing innovative thinking to the design process.
Nils decided to move to Norway in 1986 as he wanted to pursue his love of Nordic skiing in the birthplace of the sport. His work in Norway continued in a more academic direction and involved teaching and research in the fields of sport psychology, coaching, sport philosophy and friluftsliv/outdoor life. His publication record accounts hundreds of titles including work on his passion for articulating the importance of Nature. The book “Nature First” was published in collaboration with a team of like minded scholars. The book is in its second edition and is used as an important resource guide for teachers. Last year Nils summarized his 50 years of experience in cross-country skiing and his vision of the future of the sport in an impressive paper which he sent to all like- and unlike minded colleagues and members of cross-country bodies around the world.
Nils is a giant in the world of Nordic skiing and in the world of Nature studies. He has inspired and mentored countless numbers of athletes, students, colleagues and indeed friends. It is through these multiple connections, that he leaves behind a legacy of people who will continue to work to support the theme of caring for Nature and who will carry the love of skiing in their bones.
Next time you are out skiing and you feel the joy of gliding over the snow, you will know that Nils is with you in spirit!
A web page of memories and pictures has been created and can be reached using the following link: https://lavendla.no/minnesider/nils-olof-vikanger-2022-10-29/
Brad Fraser is the author of this obituary, commemorating the life of his friend, Nils Vikander.