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Dalai Lama inspires pro skier to do even more

Zero Ceiling founder looking at bigger picture



It took just one afternoon listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to re-ignite the fires in pro skier Chris Winter.

"I’m not a religious person whatsoever," said Winter, the day after he attended a Roundtable Dialogue in Vancouver with the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other luminaries.

"I’m a mountain biker. I’m a skier.

"But these people... just listening to them talk, it just made you realize that we really need to take the blinders off and open our eyes up and really look around and realize where we are."

Listening to all the different perspectives at the Roundtable Dialogue, from Iranian Professor Shirin Ebadi to Jewish leader Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi to Dr. Jo-ann Archibald of Canada’s First Nations community, Winter soon realized that there was a common message.

"When it all boiled down it was quite obvious that we’re all in this together and I think we have to change our whole approach and we have to shift our perception of the world," he said.

"We just can’t simply keep being as greedy as we are and as self-centred."

Years ago Winter first took off his blinders and founded a non-profit organization called Zero Ceiling.

He wanted to bring Vancouver street youth to Whistler and offer them the chance to experience the mountains they way he was able to.

Since then, more than 30 youths have taken the snowboarder instructor program at Whistler-Blackcomb, and have used those skills as a springboard to change their lives around.

Still, Winter said the challenges are sizeable and every year there are times when he wants to give it all up and throw in the towel.

Tuesday’s Roundtable Dialogue at UBC has given him renewed faith in his work.

"For me personally it’s totally inspired me to continue to forge ahead with Zero Ceiling and to, if anything, make sure that Zero Ceiling’s around in 50 years."

Winter was nominated to go to the discussion through his work with Zero Ceiling. He, along with a number of leaders who work in charities in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, were just some of the hundreds of people who were at the event.

It was an eclectic group in attendance, from religious leaders, to native Canadian elders, to Buddhists, artists, professors and business leaders.

The topic of discussion focused on the question: "What does it mean to balance educating the mind with educating the heart?"

Winter said we’re all guilty of focusing on money and material things here in Whistler, and indeed in the rest of North America, as we get bombarded with consumerism and the need to get ahead, make more money, buy more things.

"It’s to the point now that we’re so self-centred that people are unhappy all over the place," he said.

"We all struggle with happiness. But what these people are saying is that to truly be happy you need to focus on helping people around you.

"You need to be compassionate."

This is the Dalai Lama’s core message.

The Dalai Lama was in Vancouver on a three day visit from April 18 to 20, spreading his message and inspiring thousands of others to live a more compassionate life and work for peace within and throughout the world.

As Winter sees it there is a huge opportunity for Whistler to embrace this message, particularly as the eyes of the world put the resort under a microscope leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"We should... focus on the social sustainability and the impact we could have on the population globally," said Winter.

"I firmly believe that we collectively can make a difference."

There was a time when he did not believe this, he added. But his hope has been renewed.

So now, beyond a doubt, his work with Zero Ceiling will continue but the discussion has got him thinking about the big picture.

"I want to try to somehow change people’s perceptions on a bigger, wider scale if I can," he said.

"I’m going to work on that one."