For kids who breathe, eat, and sleep snowboarding, the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club is launching The Academy boarding school and program for the 2006-07 season.
Called the Whistler Valley Snowboard Academy, the program will allow high school students to train on snow up to five days a week during the winter season, while earning school credits through the Whistler Secondary Sports School, or another accredited system. As well, participants can take part in dryland training exercises in the off-season, building the skills they need to become better snowboarders.
The goal is to attract young riders from across Canada and prepare them for the national team, although WVSCs Rob Picard says there is some interest from foreign students as well. Several current and past members of the national team are former WVSC riders and coaches, including Mercedes Nicoll.
"Its only been on the board since March, and we just jumped into it really strong in April," said Picard. "Its a slow process, but we decided to this year anyway, get it open, get it running regardless of the late start."
Picard and others have been busy getting the house ready for students. The house will be co-ed, with single and shared rooms, and healthy meals and snacks will be provided. There will always be a guardian on premise as well to assist the students.
As for disciplines, Picards goal is to get students working on snowboardcross and halfpipe, the Olympic disciplines, and trying out for the national team. The program will also offer park training, working on slopestyle, big air, rails and other events embraced by pro competitions.
The Academy is the first of its kind in Canada, although Picard says there are other schools like it for snowboarders in Europe. There are already several ski academies in Canada, as well as academies for hockey.
WVSC members who live in the Lower Mainland and commute to Whistler for the club will also be able to stay at the Academy house. Picard says one of the clubs current members takes the bus back and forth to Vancouver two or three days a week and would jump at the chance to stay part-time in the Academy house.
Whistler members will also be able to enroll in the full-time program to get in additional training sessions without having to live at the Academy.
Picard says one of the benefits of having athletes under the Academy is the ability to attend events around the province.
"Thats probably one of the strongest points, well be able to bring more kids into things like halfpipe training and get out to events like NorAms and the nationals," said Picard.
The Academy will offer a 10-month full year program, a seven month winter term program, weekend packages (Thursday to Sunday) and Christmas and spring break camps.
So far the program is marketed through Snowboard.com and MSN, with the assistance of former WVSC student Marie Fortin. She was one of the first members of the club in 1997, going on to the B.C. Snowboard Association Provincial Championships and the nationals.
The list of coaches is also a draw, with former national team coach Joe McAdoo, pro riders Olivier Roy, Tom Kato, Mark Trinidad, Chris Wimbles, Amanda Mourant, Waylon Edwards, Ryan Rausch, and previous WVSC members Tyler Massey, Tim Orr, Johnny Lyall, and Aaron Shapiro.
"So far the response has been great, Ive got about 10 families in Alberta alone that are very interested in the program," said Picard. "Well have a better idea in a few weeks, but were lucky in the sense that we dont need that many students this year to get this program off the ground."
For more on the Whistler Valley Snowboard Academy visit www.whistlervalleysnowbaordacademy.org.