By Andrew Mitchell
The Whistler Adaptive Sports Program is preparing to launch the Adaptive Alpine Race Development Program, providing recreational racing and training to individuals with disabilities.
The program is a joint venture of WASP and the Disabled Skiers Association of B.C., and Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports, and will fill a gap that was recognized in the development of adaptive ski racing between grass roots recreational skiing and the provincial team. Funding provided by Pacific Sport enabled WASP to hire Dana Williams as the program’s first alpine coach for Sea to Sky.
“What’s happened the last few years is that we’ve provided camps throughout the season with the Disabled Skiers Association for individuals around the province to come and get some additional training, but that didn’t address the need for more skills development before people came to the B.C. Disabled Ski Team,” explained Chelsey Walker, executive director of WASP. “What Pacific Sport has done is to make sure we could fund a coach specifically to be available to coach local athletes, the same way the Whistler Mountain Ski Club would coach able-bodied athletes.”
Currently two skiers are enrolled in the program, including a skier with the B.C. team who is looking for additional training. Another skier was identified through a new Learn to Ride program sponsored by Scotiabank. At least eight skiers are interested in participating on a drop-in basis, and more are expected to participate once word gets out.
The initial funding came from the 2010 Legacies Now program, funneled through Pacific Sport. The goal of those programs is to develop athletes for 2010 and beyond by providing more athlete support and services at every level.
B.C. Disabled Ski Team head coach Phil Chew and WASP high performance coordinator Sian Blythe helped to develop the concept of offering a grass roots race development program.
Coach Williams is a former member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team as well as an alumnus of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. He worked with the Canadian Disabled Alpine Ski Team from 2004 to 2006, learning the ins and outs of disabled racing as assistant coach.
WASP will be channeling more athletes to the race program through another program they launched for this winter, the Scotiabank Learn to Ride Program. The goal of that program was to increase the number of athletes and instructors available to WASP, and increase the number of disabled visitors taking ski and snowboard lessons.
So far the program has been a success. In 2005-06, WASP taught 515 lessons to locals and visitors. This year they set a goal of 575 lessons, which they anticipate exceeding. To date WASP has taught 140 lessons this season, aided by an earlier start to the season — lessons could be offered on opening day due to the snow conditions. The program is currently offering about 10 lessons a day on average.