currie boarders 

By Christie Pashby Samantha Andrews lives only 30 minutes from Whistler, but prior to Monday she'd never strapped on a snowboard. The 12 year old has eight brothers and sisters but she's the only one who has ever tried riding. And she's already ridden with the best of the best. Her private instructor was a member of the Canadian National Snowboard Team. A partnership between the Canadian Snowboard Federation and Canadian Pacific Hotels is bringing some of the top snowboarders in the country together with some of Canada's underprivileged kids. On Monday, 14 kids from the Xit'olacw community school on the Mount Currie Reserve were invited to the Chateau Whistler Resort for outfitting by Roots Athletics. Then they headed up Blackcomb Mountain for one-on-one boarding lessons from 10 members of the national snowboard team, national team coaches and Blackcomb instructors. Mike Wood, executive director of the CSF, a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the growth of snowboarding in Canada, says snowboarders want to be proactive in the larger community. He hopes events like this happen more often and that more people from different walks of life get a chance to try snowboarding. "We're sitting in a place where billions of dollars are being spent and nothing is being done for a community that's only 30 minutes away," Wood says. "We're doing this purely because it should be done." The Xit'olacw school was the first First Nations school in B.C. It's a place where kids can learn and gain competence in Lilwayt ways so they can build skills and self-esteem. Over half of the band's 1,600 members are under the age of 24, so a family with eight kids isn't unusual. Kids like Samantha play basketball and hockey at school. And they all love the rodeo. But their families rarely have the chance to provide an outdoor winter sport experience at resort like Whistler. The principal at the Xit'olacw school, Roberta Qubeck, says bringing the Mount Currie kids to Whistler can build self-esteem through sports as well as open the kids' eyes to the numerous opportunities that are close to home. "There's employment and training here in Whistler," she says. "Right now on Mount Currie, unfortunately, there's not a lot of employment and there's about 83 per cent of people on some form of social assistance. Whistler really is a viable working place for these kids." Wood says this kind of experience is a reality check for some of the CSF athletes who live a life most kids only dream of. "These athletes either had the opportunity to work to fund their travels or they've had sponsorship through their parents or through the industry," he says. "They've been able to travel, compete and make some pretty big prize money. They've got lots of self-esteem but with that comes a false reality." "I feel privileged that my family was able to raise me in a sport," says national team member Candace Drouin. "Not everyone's got that privilege and I really realized that today." Drouin spent the day hanging out with a fearless 12-year old girl. They spent a lot of time giving each other high-five's. Wendy Pascal, 13, says that after having her first lesson with the pro riders on Monday, she'd love to get a job at Whistler-Blackcomb one day. In a few years she can go for her snowboard instructor’s certificate and get a weekend job that might turn into a career. "Being a snowboard instructor, that would be cool," she says. "They get to have a lot of fun."

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