Nordic skiing has long been regarded as one of the most physically demanding sports in the world one look at the agony, and excess saliva, on the faces of skiers in the Salt Lake City Olympics confirms this.
Its also a growing Paralympic sport, with categories for blind, and various types of paraplegics, quadriplegics, and amputees with varying locomotor abilities.
Last season the Whistler Adaptive Ski Program expanded its range of services to offer Nordic skiing programs to disabled visitors. This season the Telus Whistler Sports Centre is cranking that program up another notch with the help of instructor Kasper Wirz, coach of Canadas Disabled Cross Country Ski team.
On Dec. 11 and 12, Wirz and blind Paralympic gold medalist Brian McKeever will lead a course to train a group of 16 instructors and volunteer coaches around the province.
Their goal is to improve the quality and quantity of coaching in the province, enabling them to better serve the differently-abled community while helping to find and train the next generation of Paralympians.
"Based on the success of last years program, the Whistler Adaptive Ski Program (WASP) once again approached me and asked how we could improve training for cross-country skiing instructors interested in working with athletes with a disability," said Todd Allison, general manager of the Telus Whistler Sport Centre.
"Through the Whistler Adaptive Ski Program and the Disabled Skiers Association of B.C., we are offering free instruction to volunteer coaches from across the province. We hope that by improving the level of instructors, we can improve on the performances of Canadian athletes in the 2006 and 2010 Paralympic Winter Games."
WASP also recently formed a partnership with the Colorado-based National Sports Centre for the Disabled, drawing on the experience and skills that the NSCD has acquired in the fields of Nordic and alpine skiing over the years.
WASP is currently in its sixth year, and is rapidly expanding programs to include snowboarding and summer sports to its offering of alpine and cross-country skiing.
The Telus Whistler Sports Centre was created as part of the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporations LegaciesNow Program, which devotes funding and resources to amateur sports at all levels to foster the development of future Olympic champions.
To raise money for their Nordic skiing coaching program, WASP is hosting a special presentation by McKeever on Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Nicklaus North Golf Club. McKeever will discuss his experiences in Salt Lake City, and the challenges he faces as a visually impaired athlete.
The presentation includes a reception, and admission is by donation. The presentation runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.