When Kelly met Mike she had no intention of living in Whistler. In fact, she barely knew what the place was about. A top-rated sailboat racer - a former World Champion and Pan Am gold medallist - Kelly Hand was far too busy mounting a comeback bid for the 2008 Olympics to pay much attention to the chichi ski town north of her training base.
"I wax living in Vancouver and skippering a three-woman boat called the Yngling," says the irrepressible 34-year-old. "But it was tough. Trying to pull it all together - fundraising, training, travel, equipment - it was a massively expensive campaign to manage." She sighs. Laughs. "I could feel we were there." She stops again. Shrugs. "We were so close. But it's so hardcore now. It cost us over $50,000 for the boat alone. All our energies had to be focused on the task at hand..."
Fast-forward three years. Now married, pregnant, and just about to close on a beautiful view lot in the Rainbow development - not to mention recently becoming the newest employee at the Whistler Museum - Hand has immersed herself in local community life like few other Whistlerites of her vintage.
But then maybe that's what happens when you fall in love with Whistler's unofficial Mayor Of Fun. "He's an amazing guy," she says with ill-concealed glee of nouveau hubby Mike Varrin. "I don't know if I've ever met such a good person. Selfless and funny and full of joie-de-vivre without even trying, Mike is truly what he appears to be. His spirit is infectious."
So is hers. The quintessential girl-next-door, Hand brings a wisp of uncontained effervescence to her character that is utterly disarming. A square-cut, sporty looking gal - rosy cheeks and blue eyes, dark hair to her shoulders - she virtually exudes good-willed enthusiasm. Wears a smile like a comfy warm bathrobe. Has good things to say about just about anything.
But don't make the mistake of underestimating her. She's as comfortable chasing down a puck on an ice rink as she is skippering a boat on the open sea. As disciplined and focused in her business dealings as she was playing marine chess against the world's best. In other words, Kelly Hand is exactly what she appears to be too.
"I grew up in a little farm town in southwestern Manitoba," she recounts. And giggles. "A place called Carman. Really small-time you know. There was only one set of lights in the whole town." Her summers, she says, were spent on Lake Of The Woods on the Ontario-Manitoba border. "My father has a real adventurous spirit," she explains. "First he bought an albacore and then a CC 24. That's where we all learned to sail."