From beginners to the race course


ATTRACTING MORE RIDERS:  Thirty-nine riders marks the highest participation ever for the Kamloops region First Nations Snowboard Team.
ATTRACTING MORE RIDERS: Thirty-nine riders marks the highest participation ever for the Kamloops region First Nations Snowboard Team. – Photo by Jamie Shinkewski

Several members of Sun Peaks’ First Nations Snowboard Team are expected to compete in a boardercross competition at Big White beginning Feb. 14. The number of competitors will eclipse the total number of members the team had in its first year.

The program began with only four kids and they had to hire a private instructor through the Sun Peaks ski school. Now in its seventh year, the program includes 39 snowboarders and eight coaches.

“It’s a great program. Years ago I would’ve never thought that it would carry on to what it is today,” said Anne Keith, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc youth, sports and recreation co-ordinator. “I know my boss and all the band members they didn’t think it would fly. They thought I was nuts.”

The program is designed to introduce local First Nations youth to a new sport and encourage a healthy lifestyle. The program has kids from Kamloops, Merritt and Barriere, and has included Chase residents in the past.

“The goal overall is a healthy lifestyle and a sport for life. Hopefully they’re coming up here on their own when they’re 18 and 19 and they have their own cars,” Keith said. “A number of them have had issues in their past which we’re trying to move forward and break some of that.”

The youth participating in the program receive a season pass and equipment as well as coaching every Saturday for 10 weeks. Team members have to meet criteria in their personal lives to participate.

Ninety per cent program attendance is required; smoking, drugs and alcohol are prohibited; and team members must maintain a C+ average in school.

The team has beginners who have never strapped a board to their feet through to advanced riders who are preparing to compete.

Sadie Lawrence, 18, is eager to compete this season.
Sadie Lawrence, 18, is eager to compete this season. – Photo by Jamie Shinkewski

“I’m going to kill it at the competition this year,” said 18-year-old Sadie Lawrence, who is in her sixth year with the team. “Honestly, I hated snowboarding. At first I hated it. There were so many times that I would get so mad at myself because I couldn’t do it.”

“Now I’m going to do that double black diamond,” she continued, pointing up at the steepest run on the mountain. “This season I’m going to do it and I’m going to ride it nicely and awesomely and I’m going to have fun.”

Instilling fun on the mountain is paramount for the coaches involved in the program. Not all the kids will compete, but the goal is for everyone to enjoy themselves and to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

“If they’re not having fun it’s very difficult to learn something,” said the beginner’s coach Harry Goldberg. “The kids do have fun and once we get on the chairs they just have a hoot. (The beginners) don’t believe they’ll get on the chairs, and then by the end of the season we’ll be on every chair on the hill.”

The positive encouragement between team members and from the coaches creates a good learning atmosphere and for experienced riders to continue improving.

“It’s just genuinely fun. What’s really nice is you’re with the kids all year round so you progress with them and that’s really enjoyable,” Goldberg said. “They’re just good kids. Everybody has fun and everybody gets along.”

“You get pointers not just from the coaches but from your peers,” Lawrence added. “Some of us are at a different level, but we all try and help each other out.”

The First Nations Snowboard Team program was founded in Squamish in 2004 and is affiliated with Canada Snowboard with the ultimate goal of sending a First Nations snowboarder to the Olympics. There are over 450 participants from more than 12 Nations across B.C., Alberta and Washington.