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Whistler Nordics planning for bigger role

Olympics, Nordic Centre create new possibilities for cross-country ski club

The Whistler Nordics Cross Country Ski Club took a big step forward at a special open house meeting on Oct. 27 when participants indicated they were overwhelmingly in favour of a plan to increase the focus, visibility and membership of the club.

"We got the support we needed, and it was the decision of the people who came (to the meeting) that we should effectively re-stage our cross-country ski club, really ramp it up," said club president Tom Barratt.

"The feeling was that we need to do it, it’s an opportunity we shouldn’t let go by."

The club has been in existence since 1982, and its only two priorities for the past few decades has been the organization of the club’s annual loppet and hosting a youth Rabbits program that was expanded last year to include high school students.

It was largely because of the Rabbits program, which is geared to children aged 4-12, and the Nordic Racers program, which is geared to kids from Grade 6 to Grade 12, that the club boasted 150 members last year – a fraction of Whistler’s cross-country skiers, says Barratt.

"The interest in the sport is undeniably growing, just look at the growth of skate skiing in Lost Lake Park," he added.

"Basically we’re looking at WORCA (Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association) as a model for where we’d like the Nordics to go."

To accomplish their goals, the Whistler Nordics have established eight new committees with representatives on a board that has traditionally been limited to two or three members.

They have also established a relationship with cross-country sponsor Haywood Securities. The company has agreed to sponsor the club for $2,000 a year, plus fund the hiring of a full-time coach to work with club members and youth programs this year.

Another focus has been to form partnerships in the community, including a partnership with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club.

Once the membership starts increasing, Barratt sees the club taking a larger role in the community, hosting more races and events, supporting a local development program, and acting as the cross-country ski community’s liaison with the Olympic facility in the Callaghan Valley.

"We need to be a better organized club to be in a position… to go after more funding, to host more events and get more members," said Barratt.

More events, a coaching program and a clubhouse (possibly sharing with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club) are core to the club’s goal of signing on new members. A deal with the WMSC has not been finalized, but the two clubs are in discussion about ways they could share costs.

The larger cross country clubs around the province, which have as many as 1,500 members each year, also have the tenure to the trail systems in those areas and use member fees to cover the costs of grooming and administration. In Whistler, where the municipality runs the cross-country trail network, there isn’t as much of an incentive to join a club.

If the Whistler Nordics play a role running the Olympic Nordic Centre in the Callaghan, that could also result in more members. Regular social events, like WORCA’s Loonie Race series, would also be an asset to the Whistler Nordics.

The end goal for the club, according to the vision statement put forward at the meeting, is: "By 2009, Whistler Nordics XC Ski Club will, in association with B.C. Cross Country, stimulate the growth of Nordic sports in the region and will, in association with Cross Country Canada, be confirmed as the host club for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games."

As the host club, the Whistler Nordics would provide volunteers, officials and other logistical support for the Games. If the local club doesn’t do it, says Barratt, another club will.

The Whistler Nordics already have a good relationship with the RMOW, which they hope to make even better. They will also work to build a relationship with the Vancouver Organizing Committee of the 2010 Games.

There are a lot of steps to go through between now and 2009, but Barratt is confident that they can start to make headway this year by hiring a full-time coach and working to expand the Rabbits and Racers programs. During the winter the club will also work on a business plan and operational structure, while new board directors work on their committees.

There will be a Head Coach Committee that deals with athlete development; a Social Committee that provides news and information to members and the community; a Club Development Committee to look at ways to grow membership; a Volunteer Co-ordination Committee that ensure volunteer coaches and officials are available; a Loppet Committee to plan the club’s annual race; a B.C. Rabbit Committee to oversee the club’s youth programs; a Communication Committee to market the club in the community, act as a liaison with other clubs and raise funding; and a Race Committee to oversee events like the Coast Cup and the Junior Racers Program.

"The meeting was held to see if there was any interest in taking this route with the club, and the answer was yes, and the Nordic Centre in the Callaghan was definitely a catalyst for that. There’s a feeling that Whistler should play a bigger role there, and we needed to be a bigger club to do that," Barratt said.

If you’re interested in helping the Whistler Nordics grow, you can contact Tom Barratt at tom@tbbla.com.

Nordics host equipment swap

The Whistler Nordics will host their fifth annual gear swap on Saturday, Nov. 20, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Myrtle Philip Community School.

There is a $2 charge to sell equipment, which goes towards club programs.

The Whistler Cross Country Connection will also sell used rental equipment at the swap.

For more information on the gear swap, contact Cheryl Morningstar at 604-932-3438.




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