BOW VALLEY – Big dreams and immense potential is being realized, as Banff officially becomes Canada’s hub for Para-alpine athlete development starting this week.
The inaugural season of Rocky Mountain Adaptive’s (RMA) full-time pro-development team hits the snowy slopes of Sunshine Ski Village this Friday (Nov. 15), beginning a new era for high-level Para-alpine development in Canada for athletes such as Canmore’s Anya Morgan.
“I’m excited to keep driving towards that goal of possibly doing this as a career,” said the 16-year-old skier. “And I’m immensely proud that I get to do it with an organization [RMA] that I really love and have loved for 11 years now.”
RMA, a local charity that removes barriers in sport and recreation for those living with physical and cognitive disabilities, received funding from the 2019 Para Sport Jumpstart Fund, which came from a partnership between the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Canadian Tire Jumpstart charities. This year, The Para Sport Jumpstart Fund dedicated $800,000 to more than 40 organizations.
Do you live w/ a physical disability, aged 4-25, & would you like to try Alpine Skiing for the 1st time? Thanks to @CTJumpstart & @ParaSportJumpstartFund, we are running FREE 2-day Para Alpine Try It Camps @SunshineVillage. Learn more https://t.co/7ju2Wto2EN #freecamp #nolimits pic.twitter.com/EG5u9xHUVb— Rocky Mtn Adaptive (@RockyMtnAdaptiv) October 7, 2019
Para-alpine, or "adaptive" skiing, has been offered by RMA, among others, for a decade in the Bow Valley. After receiving the newfound funds, the local charity extended its reach and hired a full-time coaching staff for a development team, announced earlier this month.
Taking the reins as RMA development team's head coach is Gavin McNutt, who spent two years on the FIS circuit and worked with Alpine Canada’s men’s development team last season. Backing up McNutt are assistant coach Kirk Schornstein and mentor Tori Pendergast, both former Paraylmpians.
“We’re very pleased we have Gavin as our head coach and then two retired Paralympic athletes, as the assistant coach and mentor coach as well,” said Jamie McCulloch, RMA executive director. “They’ve lived what these guys are working towards, so having them as a part of the team is a phenomenal resource.”
The development team has 15 members, aged from early teens to in their 30s, with local members and those joining from overseas. For training, three days of the week will be on the slopes of longtime RMA partner Sunshine Village and one day will be on Mt. Norquay Ski Resort. The fifth day will be in a classroom, so to speak, where they’ll learn the other side of being a high-level athlete such as fundraising efforts and self-promoting.
“We’ll give it a great go this year and build up and establish the full-time program,” McCulloch said. “We want to fulfil the goals and dreams and aspirations with athletes in the program and … you never know, we could have some people in this program in Beijing in 2022 and Italy in 2026.”
For Morgan, who was a finalist for this year’s Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival Mountain Idol award, she realized national and international racing was possible after she participated in the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer earlier this year.
Competing in slalom, giant slalom and gaining confidence to try super-G, Morgan said being selected to a national team one day would be amazing.
“Obviously it’s not going to be easy, but I love skiing so much and that could be what I can do for a portion of life and that would amazing and I’m just trying to work there as hard as I can to get there, hopefully,” she said.