Whistler could be home to a new snow sports academy this fall.
The idea is being launched by Whistler resident Rob Darnbrough who hopes to capture the imagination of competitive skiers to help them develop real-world experience on and off the slopes.
The Whistler Snow Sports Academy (WSSA) will also have an emphasis on entrepreneurship — something Darnbrough has nearly two decades of experience with himself.
"One of the first things that we're doing is helping the kids actually set up and design and develop their own companies as part of the curriculum," Darnbrough said.
For the first batch of students this September, Darnbrough will assist them in setting up their own 3D ski printing company.
"Each of the kids that will go to the school will have shares in a trust for them that upon graduation they will be able to redeem for post secondary," Darnbrough said.
"So it's truly an entrepreneurial endeavour that they're involved in, which I will help support and back with them."
Darnbrough — a father of two boys himself — said the idea for the WSSA was born after he and his wife were unsatisfied with other educational avenues.
"If you look at the Grade 9 curriculum right now for technology, it's the intro to the World Wide Web," Darnbrough said. "That's what the B.C. Ministry of Education considers to be educating kids on technology."
But in an economy where Artificial Intelligence will soon take centre stage, Darnbrough thinks the young people of today need to learn how to be value creators "as opposed to going through a program that effectively sets them up to be employees or workers," he said.
Darnbrough has already taken on one staff member, Brad Gooderham, who used to teach at Coast Mountain Academy in Squamish.
Gooderham's style of instruction is experiential, project-based and altogether different from what is currently on offer from the public school system, Darnbrough said.
"The approach we're taking is a blended learning approach, which incorporates the benefits and the flexibility of online learning with the connection to people that you get within normal classrooms," Gooderham explained.
Schedules at the WSSA will be designed to fit the needs of students with unique schedules — like the elite snow sport athletes found in Whistler.
Students will have dedicated teachers through the online model, as well as in-house instructors overseeing their progress. Classes will be held in rented facilities.
"So for each class they'll essentially have two teachers," Gooderham said.
"This model liberates the students' time to learn when they learn best. They can apply themselves to their course work, and when they have other obligations they are able to meet those with full focus on whatever they're doing at the time, whether that's skiing or academics."
The WSSA is hoping to start this September with a minimum of 16 students and a maximum of 24. Fees are still under consideration, but are expected to be under $10,000 annually.
An information night is scheduled for Thursday, May 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre.
Visit www.whistlersnowsportsacademy.com for more information.
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