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Local leaders champion Paralympics and Whistler Adaptive Ski Program.



Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly and former World Cup downhill champion Steve Podborski took to the slopes for the first time together this week.

But their adventure wasn’t just about having fun. It had a twist and a message.

Both were out to learn how it feels to swoosh down the slopes in a sit-ski, but they were also working to raise awareness about the Paralympics and Whistler’s own Adaptive Ski Program.

"I see how important this is to support on both a personal level and with the Olympics," said Podborski, executive director of international relations for the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation.

Whistler hopes to play host to the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

"The Paralympics are really a huge part of the Games," said Podborski. "People tend to put it in second place and maybe it is the little brother, but it is a beloved little brother and it’s great that Whistler is so accessible for these athletes."

Podborski said he was amazed at how intuitive it was to use the sit-ski.

"Hugh and I got it right away," said Podborski.

"I was shocked… It is pretty intimidating. You’ve got one little ski and you are all strapped in there and you think, OK I’m going to die, I’m going to go out there and get pounded."

Luckily that’s not what happened.

If the tales be true the mayor and Podborski enjoyed a little competition of their own on the slopes.

For Sian Blythe, director of the Whistler Adaptive Ski Program, which organized Podborski and O’Reilly’s sit-ski day, the support of two high-profile community leaders is priceless.

"If someone like Steve Podborski is an advocate of our program that is worth so much publicity and so much recognition," said Blythe.

"If he believes in what we do then he can inspire people.

"And having Mayor Hugh O’Reilly be passionate about our program and the community of Whistler endorse our programs, that is really important because although we deal with people way beyond the Sea to Sky corridor we are still a community program."

On April 12 and 13 Whistler will play host to 10 potential medal winners in the Paralympic Winter Games through a training clinic put on by the Adaptive Ski Program and the Telus Winter Sport Centre.

The clinic is being supported by the LegaciesNow program, part of the bid to host the 2010 Games.

"I think it is really important that people know that the bid process is helping people right now," said Blythe.

"We have already received $15,000 in funding."