By Andrew Mitchell
When it comes to celebrating all aspects of mountain culture,
there’s nothing like the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival. It started
with sports, but gradually grew to include music and the arts.
Making that culture inclusive has been a mission for Whistler’s
Chris Winter since 1997, when he helped to organize a day snowboard trip to the
resort for Vancouver street youth and youth at risk.
Since then the program has expanded and evolved. Every year
about 160 youths will take part, in groups of 10, many of them getting their
first chance to snowboard. The program has expanded to Mont Tremblant, another
Intrawest resort, as well as First Nations communities.
Zero Ceiling has also created a snowboard instructor program
for youth at risk. The youth spend several days in Whistler, refining their
riding, before taking the Level 1 instructor course. Those who pass are given
the opportunity of a lifetime ÑÊa place in staff housing, a job with
Whistler-Blackcomb ski and snowboard school, the gear they need to teach, and
assistance while they get settled in a new community.
“It really blows my mind how successful the Snowboard
Instructor Program has become,” said Winter. “Who would have known that
rebellious streeth youth could go from scrapping with motorists while cleaning
car windows on the corner of Main and Terminal in Vancouver to teaching the
international jet set crowd on the slopes, and do it well.
“Some former street youth have been living here and working
here for seven-plus years.”
Almost since the beginning of Zero Ceiling it has been a
charity of choice for the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, with proceeds
from fundraising events going towards the program.
This year things will be a little different. Instead of hosting
a Zero Ceiling event the festival’s online box office is offering people a
chance to make a donation while buying tickets for events.
“What Chris Winter recognized when he started Zero Ceiling was
that many people need a helping hand in living their lives to the fullest by
being exposed to positive experiences,” said Doug Perry, WSSF founder and chief
executive. “Zero Ceiling’s spirit of respect and generosity is an inspiration
to us all to take a moment to open the door for others. We hope that as people
purchase their tickets to some of the festival events this year, they’ll also
consider making a donation to Zero Ceiling through the e-store at
whistler2006.com. Every bit helps.”
For more information on Zero Ceiling, visit www.zeroceiling.org.