An injury derailed Bjorger Pettersen's goal of competing in the Olympics, but it launched a new career as one of cross-country skiing's most influential builders in B.C. and Canada.
Pettersen's involvement in the sport he loved spanned decades and included stints as the Canadian national team head coach and a Canadian delegate on the FIS, the international ski federation.
Born in Norway, Pettersen was raised in Prince George after his family moved to northern British Columbia in 1953. As an 11-year-old, he brought his passion for cross-country skiing with him across the Atlantic. He won the northern B.C. cross-country ski title seven straight years between 1957 and 1963 and had a three-year race undefeated streak from 1958 to 1961.
While training for the 1964 Olympics, Pettersen injured an Achilles tendon and was unable to compete – but he quickly took his knowledge of the sport and applied it to coaching, first in Prince George, then in the rest of Canada.
In addition to coaching, Pettersen helped build the sport locally by co-founding the Hickory Wing Ski Club in 1957 and then collaborating to develop the cross-country, ski jump and biathlon facilities at Tabor Mountain beginning in 1960.
While living in Prince George, he started his career in sports administration, beginning by being elected Western Canadian cross-country skiing chairman in 1963.
Pettersen became the first-ever full-time coach of the Canadian cross-country ski team in 1971 and guided the team at the 1972 Olympics in Japan. He also spent 27 years as a Canadian representative on the international federation and his forward thinking is credited with making the sport more fan-friendly by adding mass start and pursuit races and pushing for the inclusion of skate-ski races.
While his coaching and administrative duties took him across the country, including launching an innovative program for young Inuit skiers in Inuvik, Pettersen remained connected to skiing in Prince George. He helped to co-host the Canadian championships in northern B.C. in 1981 and helped develop some of the trails at Otway Nordic Centre.
One of Pettersen's most significant accomplishments was helping to design the cross-country ski course in Canmore, Alta., a course that was used for the 1988 Winter Olympics.
A member of the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame since 2007 and an honorary lifetime member of the FIS, Pettersen is truly a cross-country ski pioneer in Prince George, in Canada and around the world.
Pettersen's father, John, is also a Prince George Sports Hall of Fame inductee this year.