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Callaghan ski jumps need funding, grassroots support

Squamish looks to build up interest with legacy facility at Brennan Park

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The future of the two ski jumps at Whistler Olympic Park remains very much up in the air but plans are underway to find the much-needed money and community support to keep them alive.

It will not be an easy task.

This week Keith Bennett, president and CEO of Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies, confirmed that his organization does not have the funds to keep the ski jumps up and running post-Games.

"We do have legacy funds to support the operation of the cross country ski centre for the Nordic skiing and also for the operation of the sliding centre," said Bennett. "The ski jumps are in the Nordic centre but there was never any provision to actually operate them."

He explained that the jumps - 140 metres and 106 metres long - are not simple or cheap items to operate. There is a refrigeration system in the in-run track. There is tremendous support needed from volunteers to shovel the stairs that run up and down the side of the jumps. And there needs to be avalanche control and snow management on the side hills.

The jumps also need a winch cat to groom the slopes.

And while Olympic organizers have agreed to leave behind a winch cat following the Games, there are many other factors that need to be resolved before those jumps are operational in the future.

Ski Jumping Canada is hoping to hold festivals and international competitions there in the years to come and have the jumps open 30 to 40 days a year.

"There's a lot of things that need to come together to really make that viable," said Bennett. "And again, finding the funding is the other pretty significant piece.

"The onus is on sport to create a financial business plan around those events that supports those evens. We're not in a financial position to underwrite the events. We can provide the facility."

Ski Jumping Canada is in the process of developing a business plan that would outline how it could hold festivals and big competitions at Whistler Olympic Park in the years following the Games.

"We are developing a plan," said Brent Morrice, chairman of Ski Jumping Canada.

The hope, he said, is that the sport can generate funds from those festivals.

But the truth is: ski jumping in Canada isn't robust when compared to other winter sports.

Dr. Roger Jackson, CEO and director of Winter Sport of Own the Podium, the organization that financially supports athletes in their quest for the Olympic podium, said his organization gave Ski Jumping Canada $150,000 every year for the last five years.

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