Centenarian ski pioneer

Born: August 23, 1913;

Died: May 12, 2016

HILDA Jamieson, who has died aged 102, was Scotland's, the UK's and very possibly the world's oldest active skier.

She was still skiing earlier this year at 102 when near-blindness forced her to hang up her boots and poles after 80 years on the slopes and hors-pistes. Despite her degenerative eye condition, she kept skiing until April this year, with her daughter Helen or grandson Gavin beside her as "beacons" to tell her where and when to turn. They said "Gigi" – as they affectionately called her – still sang The Road to Dundee as she slid down the slopes.

Of course, she was not always an old lady weaving her way down carefully. In her younger days, she was a fearless downhill racer and slalomist who became Scottish ladies' skiing champion. She will, however, probably be best remembered, along with her late husband David, for pioneering the sport of skiing in Scotland by building the now popular Glenshee Ski Centre which attracts skiers from every continent.

Glenshee also begat Scotland's other ski centres, putting us on the world skiing map despite our climate and less-than-Alpine peaks. Her husband David became known in Glenshee throughout his life as Pop Jamieson for his role in developing the industry.

Also keen golfers, David and Hilda Mathieson helped develop the Glenisla Golf Centre in Alyth, Perthshire, now a golf tourists' attraction, where Hilda played off an 18 handicap. In fact, she was an all-round sportswoman, gifted at tennis, swimming and, on rainy days, darts.

Hilda Jamieson was born in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, on the north bank of the river Tay, on August 23, 1913, but grew up largely just north, in the village of Newtyle, where her family were stalwarts of the local parish church.

She went to the old Grove Academy in Dundee before going into journalism with the Dundee publishing company D C Thomson, during which time she met local lad David Jamieson at a dance and married him in September 1939, just after the outbreak of war. He worked for the well-established Dundee jute firm H & A Scott, where he rose to become managing director but, volunteering for the army as a teenager at the start of the war, interrupted his career to serve with the Royal Army Service Corps. His wife, by then pregnant with their first baby, went through the pain of not knowing his fate during the 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk.

She later learned that he had not only survived but distinguished himself during the valiant resistance by the 51st Highland Division at St Valery which helped delay the Nazi advance. (Under heavy German fire, David took off his boots and backpack and swam to one of the famous English civilian "little ships" which brought so many UK troops home).

David Jamieson had become a keen skier before the war, having spent winter holidays in the Alps. Back in Scotland, by then with three daughters, he and his wife set out to create a ski centre in their homeland. Glenshee, only two hours by car from Dundee, seemed like an obvious choice. Dundee Ski Club had been founded just before the war by Scottish mountaineers. Its members, along with climbing and skiing aficionados from Edinburgh and elsewhere, helped the Jamiesons with their project.

Armed with shovels, ice-picks and sandbags, they trudged off "up the glen" at dawn across rough roads and gamekeepers' tracks, including the notorious wind-swept Devil's Elbow double-hairpin bend. Helped by local farmers' tractors, they built the first rope-tow for skiers on the 2,641-feet Ben Ghulbhuinn and would go on to erect the first T-bar lift on the slopes of Meall Odhar near Tyndrum. All that time, Hilda Jamieson was mucking in. From that simple, hard-worked start, Glenshee today has 27 lifts, 36 runs and is considered one of the best winter sports resorts in the UK, with some of the best "groomers" (piste preparers) in the business.

Hilda Jamieson, who had started skiing on the Sidlow hills north of Dundee in her twenties using wooden skis and lace-up leather boots, quickly got back into the sport with David after the war. She recalled the two of them trudging for an hour or more up steep mountain passes all for the thrill of a two-minute descent on skis.

“Nowadays nobody walks, they just take a ski lift – and I doubt they could walk up those slopes," she recalled. “There were no edges on the skis and we only had leather boots, which I had to clean and dry five pairs of every weekend.”

After hanging up her fancier clip-on boots in April, she added: "I love it so much, but I've had a good innings." More than a century of life and 80 years of skiing; good innings indeed.

With a chalet on the slopes at Meribel in France, the Jamiesons passed their love of skiing on to their three daughters, all of them skiing soon after they could walk. Their youngest daughter Helen, now 69, skied for Team GB in the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. The other daughters, Valery and Sheila, represented Scotland at national level and most of Hilda Jamieson's grandchildren and great grandchildren appear to have skiing in their blood. Her grandson Jamie Verden-Anderson and her granddaughter Lucinda Ness have both raced for Scotland and current Team GB Alpine racer Jack Gower is a close relative of the family.

Away from the slopes, Hilda Jamieson played golf as a member at Alyth, Rosemount, Panmure Barry and Monifieth. Aged 100, she was still working out at the Dorothy Dobson's exercise classes in Dundee, 40 years above the minimum age for membership.

As for swimming, she could disappear from sight during family holidays but always came back. She was already 102 when she had her last ocean swim off the Turks and Caicos islands in the Caribbean last November. No problem, she said, the water was delightfully warm. With a sharp mind until her passing, she liked to read every day, especially poetry.

Hilda Jamieson's husband David died in 2002. She passed away in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. Her funeral was held at Newtyle Parish Church, where she was buried in the cemetery.

She is survived by her daughters Valery, Sheila and Helen, 10 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.