Winter sports are part of Canadians’ DNA. When the snow starts to fall each winter, nearly 5.5 million of us take to the hills to pursue activities like downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross country skiing.
Canadians excel at these sports internationally too. We love to watch our best nordic, alpine and freestyle athletes compete, particularly during Olympic years when they make us proud on the podium. Always a winter sports nation, Canada has enjoyed increasing success at the Winter Olympic Games, culminating in our best ever performance at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, where our athletes won a best-ever 26 medals on home soil.
“Canadian athletes are in the hunt for gold, and there’s a lot of emotion and excitement attached to that. But training for their sports is these athletes’ careers. They do it day in, day out with very little attention. They wouldn’t be here if we didn’t support them outside Olympic years.”
Inspired by this success, young Canadian athletes join ski clubs all over the country that are the training ground for Canada’s national teams. There are approximately 93,000 registered members of Canada’s seven national snow sports organizations: Alpine Canada, Biathlon Canada, Canada Snowboard, Cross Country Ski Canada, Freestyle Canada, Nordic Combined Canada and Ski Jumping Canada.
Each of these organizations has invested in a wealth of expertise and resources to help its athletes achieve their best possible level of performance. “There’s a very technical focus,” says Davin McIntosh, executive director of Cross Country Canada. “National team athletes don’t just have a coach, they have a whole integrated support team of experts in physiology, medicine, bio-mechanics, nutrition, psychology – you name it.”
Now, they are reaching out to share this expertise with recreational snow sport participants, hoping to ensure safety, awareness and growing participation in each of their sports. To do so, they’ve formed a partnership called Snow Sports Canada.
“There’s a lot of money invested in research and development for Canada’s high performance athletes, and it seems a shame not to share it,” says Bill Cooper, partner at the Twentyten Group, a marketing and sponsorship agency working closely with Snow Sports Canada. “We think there’s an appetite among Canadians for fitness and nutrition advice, equipment tips and other ideas to help them get the most out of their snow sports experiences.”
Asked what led to this collaboration, McIntosh explains, “There are a lot of ties between our sports. Many families who downhill ski also enjoy cross country. They might be interested in watching a biathlon race or trying something new themselves. We have a supportive, enthusiastic cross country community, but we also have a lot to gain by reaching out to a broader group.”
The eyes of millions of Canadians will be on Canada’s national team athletes when they compete in Sochi this February, but in fact they need our support outside Olympic years. “Any time we have an Olympics, it’s a rallying point for our sports,” says McIntosh. “Canadian athletes are in the hunt for gold, and there’s a lot of emotion and excitement attached to that. But training for their sports is these athletes’ careers. They do it day in, day out with very little attention. They wouldn’t be here if we didn’t support them outside Olympic years.”
Snow Sports Canada and its seven partners hope that by sharing their expertise with Canada’s recreational snow sport participants, they can create a valuable asset that will attract sponsorship that can be invested in this athlete support.
“Snowsportscanada.ca will provide tips gathered from experts and athletes. We hope Canadians will get on board and help us steer the ship going forward, by telling us what kind of information they’re most interested in,” says Cooper.