February 25, 1995 in Nation/World

`Our Lady Of The Snow Ski Club’ Nuns On The Runs They Pray On The Way Up And Pray On The Way Down, And They Like The Closeness They Feel To Heaven

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Reverend Mother Mary Katrina and Sister Marie Francine had a tough time getting in some skiing Friday.

Other skiiers kept stopping the two nuns, dressed head-to-toe in striking blue and white habits.

“They want us to pray for them or have their picture taken with us. Lots ask if we are real nuns,” said 27-yearold Sister Francine. “It’s a good question. You don’t see many nuns anymore.”

At least not skiing nuns, with only their faces and ski boots poking out of their traditional garb.

“The lifties call us the flying nuns,” said Mother Katrina.

The two Catholic nuns were on their annual three-day ski trip at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. It’s a break from convent life in Colbert, Wash., where the sisters belong to the Mary Immaculate Queen Order.

The two are used to ribbings about their ski attire. Just as they ended a run, a passer-by quipped: “I see you’re making a habit out of skiing.”

“We don’t mind the attention,” Mother Katrina said. “We wear this to represent the traditional way of life, and if you can ski in it too, why not.”

Other nuns at the convent sewed the sisters matching blue and white ski jackets to go with their habits. A St. Christopher medal hangs from the zipper.

The sisters also don snow pants under their robes to keep warm.

“Sometimes the veil gets in the way and you have to tie it down,” says Mother Katrina. “Snowboarding in this would be a different story. We would spend more time on our knees here than at home if we tried to snowboard.”

The sisters consider themselves missionaries while on the slopes, where people are more comfortable approaching them.

“The young kids are very open. They ski up and say, `Are you real nuns? Cool,”’ says Sister Francine. “Lots of people ask us to pray for them or a loved one. Most ask us to pray for snow.”

Sister Francine recalls a rough looking biker-type who once stopped them. He asked for prayers then wanted to give the sisters a ride on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

“We said we would stick to the slopes,” she said. “But it was neat having this large, tough man ask for prayers.”

The sisters say the rosary and their own prayers while riding the chairlift or skiing. Sister Francine confessed some of it’s because she’s afraid of heights.

“But this is not a vacation from God. It’s a vacation with God,” said Mother Katrina. “I like the solitude, beauty and closeness you feel to heaven.”

About 10 of the 45 sisters at the convent ski. Mother Katrina and Sister Francine began two years ago on a dare from students at Mount St. Michaels in Spokane. They ran out of excuses not to go after the students paid for lift tickets and ski rentals.

“We had such a nice time and managed to do it in our habits that we just kept going,” said Mother Katrina. Since then, ski equipment has been donated to the sisters. Resorts, like Schweitzer, often give them complimentary tickets.

The skiing nuns now jokingly refer to themselves as “Our Lady of the Snow Ski Club.” They’re also quick to point out Pope Pius XII once skied in his full papal regalia.

The sisters skiing ability has even landed them in a commercial for Wintersport, a Spokane ski shop.

“They cut off the camera just before I went into the trees and the other sister went into the camera,” said Sister Francine.

“We have faith, but we also have prudence.”


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email