New Sport Legacy programs offer youth more recreation opportunities 

WSL president and CEO Roger Soane excited about line-up of events

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Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) is launching a new set of youth programs with an aim of getting young athletes to try activities they might not have had access to in the past.

And key to the success of the program, believes WSL president and CEO Roger Soane, is letting the kids try all the sports.

In fact, said Soane, having an athlete specialize in a sport at a young age can be detrimental and that's the philosophy organizers had in mind when coming up with the new Olympic Mondays program.

Olympic Mondays is a partnership between Whistler Sport Legacies, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club.

The six-week program will feature different sports each Monday from Jan. 5 to Feb. 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The weekly offerings are: cross-country skiing, alpine skiing/ski-cross, sliding, snowboarding, freestyle/moguls and air, and biathlon and ski jumping.

"I'm a great believer in getting kids access to many, many sports," said Soane, who has been with Whistler Sport Legacies since January 2013. "In society today, we get kids to specialize too young."

With the idea in mind that children become successful when specializing in a sport beginning in their teens, the program is open to those aged nine to 12. Participants must have reached Level 3 of Whistler Blackcomb's six-level kids' ability chart for alpine or snowboard, or have a comparable Nordic skill level.

The cost for all six sessions is $240, and equipment will be included.

Those looking to register can email sjeltsch@whistlersportlegacies.com and those looking for more information can visit www.whistlersportlegacies.com. Registration is expected to open in mid-November.

Another new offering for youth is a ski-jumping program, which will take place at Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan. Participants can opt to attend Saturday or Sunday sessions, which begin the weekend of Jan. 24 and 25 and wrap the weekend of March 14 and 15. Sessions take place from 1 to 3 p.m.

The program is open to skiers aged eight to 14 who have achieved either the Whistler Blackcomb Level 3 for alpine on the kids' ability chart, or who have the Jackrabbit Level 2 for cross-country.

The skiers will learn on two newly constructed 20m and 40m training jumps, which make the sport more accessible to younger athletes. The distances refer to the maximum length of jump that a skier can make from the ramp.

Soane hopes to have about 100 kids try out the program over the course of the winter, noting two test runs last winter brought out 24 kids each day.

"We sold out within a day of putting it on the web," he said. "We built some snow jumps, and the kids just had a blast."

New ski jumps being constructed for younger skiers

New, shorter ski jumps will help fill in the gaps for young people looking to get into the sport.

John Heilig, the manager of Nordic sport at Whistler Olympic Park, said the two new shorter jumps are less steep than the existing jumps for more experienced athletes. The in-run slope for the 20m run is at 20 degrees and the 40m run is at 23 degrees, while the shared landing for the two runs is at 30 degrees. Comparatively, the existing 140m and 106m runs each have an in-run and landing slope of 35 degrees.

Heilig was confident everything that needed to get done would be completed by the first snow.

In addition to the two jumps, a new ski-play area and Nordic terrain park with smaller bumps and jumps is also being constructed toward the base of the hill. Heilig described the play area's purposes as "to help kids develop balance" and "to get to the next level of jumps."

The ski play area will open on Dec. 8, while the ski jumps will open in mid-January.

-Dan Falloon

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