A self-proclaimed “park rat,” Graeme McKay went from a ski instructor to a level four certified freestyle instructor in under a year. He is now the head coach of the Sun Peaks Freestyle Club, and he’s their highest qualified instructor to date.
“Having a level four coach is a huge asset for any freestyle club. I’m just happy that I can be that guy,” said McKay.
Getting his start in freestyle skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort, McKay was mainly self-taught. He said he had to fall a lot to learn but his passion for the sport allowed him to push through and get to the level he’s at today, throwing big backflips off Nancy in the Rockstar Terrain Park.
“I figure if I was getting better I may as well pass on whatever knowledge I have and try and teach some other kids how to ski and do what they want to do,” he said.
Last winter, while he was working as a ski instructor with the Sun Peaks Ski School, McKay was approached by Luc Levert, the then head coach, to come on board.
“As soon as I heard he was thinking about me to bring on as a coach and to coach freestyle skiing and go to these competitions with the kids I was like, ‘Yes, sign me up,’” he said.
He received his club coach certification in December 2017 and his passion for the sport and coaching flourished. He approached the club’s parents for support to attend the supercoach training at Whistler Blackcomb in May 2018.
“A lot of the parents were super stoked,” he recalled.
Attending the three-week camp, McKay was immersed in on-snow training earning his Alr level one through four certification. This gave him the skills and training to train athletes on a trampoline, an airbag and to qualify athletes on snow jumps.
“It was a pretty full on course. I think in the span of three weeks we only had two days where we had the day off,” he stated.
McKay said he hopes his training will allow him to bring in more structure to the weekend training sessions.
“Some of my main goals are just to increase the level of talent with the kids, like I said maybe get it a little more organized and structured so we’re not winging it when we go to these competitions.”
Looking to foster a passion for the sport among his athletes, McKay said he hopes to develop relationships with other sports programs on the mountain and work towards making skiing as great as it can be.
“I want to start getting them thinking about more long term. Where do they want to go with freestyle skiing?” he said.
The freestyle club will attend four competitions this season under direction of McKay and assistant coach Cody Mackinnon.