By Deb Everts

The HoliMont experience has been a tradition with an Ontario, Canada, family for over 50 years. 

Seeking an ideal winter vacation spot for their family, the late Gord and late Stella Wilkinson joined HoliMont Ski Resort the second year it was open.

For three generations, the family has traveled from Burlington, Ontario, to enjoy winter sports at “the Mont.” 

Their daughter, Donna Gardner, said the whole family has skied together for many years and her parents actually skied until their late 80s.

Although they have passed on, the tradition has continued with her husband, Bruce, and their two children, Brianne and Darren, who are now adults and very much a part of the HoliMont scene.

The Gardner family comes to Ellicottville every ski season to spend time together on the mountain slopes. 

“My dad never liked the roads to Collingwood [near the Blue Mountain ski resort, in Ontario]. That’s how we ended up driving down to Ellicottville,” she said. “It’s not very far. It’s just a two-hour drive.”

Gardner said her children were born and bred at HoliMont, and the family has been building a lifetime of memories there. She said both Brianne and Darren started skiing at age 2.

With his father’s encouragement, Darren took up snowboarding around age 4. With exceptional skills and learning to ski at such an early age, the siblings conquered the slopes not just at HoliMont, but all over the area and even the world.

“Brianne was a ski racer. She raced all over Western New York and won the club championship for a couple of years,” she said. “Although Darren snowboards all over the world, he still thinks of HoliMont as his home-base.” 

In a previous interview, Darren said he began snowboarding at HoliMont and competed on the U.S. circuit before he switched over to the Canadian circuit. He represented Team Canada in the parallel giant slalom at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Gardner said her son is currently living in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada where he attends a university. He’s on the national team and is currently on a world circuit tour. She said he’s training and hoping to go to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.

“HoliMont is my home, and it has a great snowboard program with excellent coaches who helped me get to where I am today,”  Darren said.

Gardner said the thing that keeps her family coming back to Ellicottville to ski year after year and generation after generation is the “HoliMont Fever.”

“We love the family atmosphere at the club, the good friends we’ve made, and the village is so lovely,” she said. “All those things make us keep coming back.”