Nov. 30, 2011 - Issue #841: Merry movie night
100 for 100
Edmonton Ski Club offering youth a head start on the slopes
But for inner city youth, skiing is an unaffordable, unimaginable luxury, says Marika Chandler. "These kids are living on the streets or in shelters, they don't have jobs," she describes.
As youth recreation coordinator for Boyle Street Community Services and the Bissell Centre, Chandler sees first hand the drudgery of the lifestyle. Some kids visit the drop-in programs five to seven days a week, whiling away the hours sitting around and playing cards.
"There's not much different in their lives day to day," she laments.
But that may soon change. This year, as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations, the Edmonton Ski Club has launched the Snow Angels program to provide skiing and snowboarding opportunities for disadvantaged kids (up to age 18) who wouldn't otherwise have access to the sport. The club has set a goal of providing free skiing, rentals and lessons to 100 new youths.
The Bissell Centre is just one of the agencies that the Ski Club is working with to establish the program. Others include a local inner city school, the Boys and Girls Club, Edmonton newcomers programs and Abdi Osman's African community program. But ski-school director Michele George stresses that the invite is open to any groups or individuals who want to take part.
The Ski Club, which operates as a non-profit, is raising funds for the program in a variety of ways. During the pre-season, it invited season-pass holders to turn back their 10 percent early bird discount to the Snow Angels program. Through its non-profit status, the organization is also able to sell Student Union Ticket Pack books. While in other years that money could be used to help cover operating expenses, George explains, this year all proceeds from the sale of the books will go directly back to the Snow Angels program.
By addressing the issue of accessibility, the Snow Angels program also addresses a key industry weakness. Bringing newcomers to the sport—whether underprivileged youth, recent immigrants or ethnic minorities—is an important step towards making skiing more accessible.
The initiative comes at a time when ski industry growth has hit a plateau in Canada. The Canada Ski Council, which tracks visitation to Canadian ski resorts, reports that overall domestic participation in skiing and boarding in Canada has been declining since 2001.
Like several other expensive Western sports, this may be, in part because skiing remains the domain of privileged white males. The demographics are shifting, but not fast enough, it seems, to keep up with attrition. Disadvantaged or not, first-generation newcomer or third-generation Canadian, these are kids who could grow up to fill those chairlifts as adults.
For the dedicated skier, increasing the number of active snow sports enthusiasts in the market may not seem like a pressing concern. Fewer skiers and riders means shorter lift lines. But, argues David Lynn, of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, "Long term, skiers want a vibrant, growing industry with lots of great experiences to choose from."
Industry resilience is all well and good but the priority here, says George, is to make a difference in the lives of Edmonton youth. With Snow Angels, Chandler sees a chance to get the kids out of their everyday funk.
"It's a good opportunity to give youth a positive experience, something where they can build skills, have healthy relationships and boost their self-esteem," says Chandler. "This is something that can enrich their lives and maybe inspire them to take the next steps.
"Or maybe it will simply allow them to forget about the inner city and just be a 15-year-old for a little while."
And even if it's just for a day, that's something every young person
For more information or to donate to the Snow Angels program, contact the Edmonton Ski Club (edmontonskiclub.com, 866.747.2582). The Canada Ski Council, partnered with regional organizations such as the Canada West Ski Areas Association, offers low-cost skiing for kids via the Grade 4 – 5 Snowpass
David Lynn, president CWSAA email@example.com
Michele George, ESC 780.465.0852
Marika Chandler, inner city recreation coordinator, Bissell Centre 780.860.6154
Abdi Osman, firstname.lastname@example.org, 780.975.5980
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