First Nations Snowboard Team heading to Big White in February

The Sun Peaks team is holding a series of raffles to support its members and cover travel expenses.
Members of the First Nations Snowboard Team kneel and stand in the snow in a group photo.
The First Nations Snowboard Team, pictured in 2016, poses together on the slopes. File photo.

The First Nations Snowboard Team (FNST) which trains in Sun Peaks had a successful raffle this week, and funds will go to the high-performance team’s trip to Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna from Feb. 10 to 12.

The FNST provides winter sports opportunities for Indigenous youth and builds social change.

The first raffle for the team this year was drawn on Feb. 1, with donated items from community members and local businesses, including Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing. The items provided by Wiegele were given to the team before Wiegele passed away, according to Earl Celesta of Simpcw band, a parent for two team members who is also a coach.

“[Wiegele] had an agreement with Simpcw First Nation … he’s seen the growth in our community here … [the team at Wiegele’s Heli Skiing] has been really good to us, they donate a lot of stuff [from] the business and they support us, as well,” Celesta said.

The first prize in the raffle included an avalanche bag package from Weigele, the second prize was a snowboard package and the third was a Valentine’s Day gift package.

Celesta told SPIN the raffle raised a total of $3340 for the team.

Attendees of the Feb. 1 raffle were treated to Indian tacos on bannock with lots of toppings, Celesta said.

James Celesta, an 18-year-old high-performance team member with FNST and Celesta’s son, said fundraisers are essential for helping the team go to competitions.

“Getting to Big White, it’s not cheap at all. Everyone’s got to factor in the costs of staying at a place for a certain amount of time, pass ticket prices, the registration fees … the food and the water,” James said.

James said the communities support encourages other youth to try joining the team in the future. He explained snowboarding benefits his life.

“It helps me clear my mind if I’m feeling stressed or anything else that’s been going on in past lives or anything that’s been bugging me,” James said.

Daughter Lelani Celesta is also a member of the team heading to Big White. The 16-year-old has been snowboarding since she was eight.

“It’s super cool we have a team like this,” Lelani said.

Celesta said fundraising for the team was primarily on hold since the COVID-19 pandemic started in the spring of 2020. He said the team was at Big White in March when the mountain shut down — this will be the first time the team has gone back as a group since then.

Celesta said FNST trains at Sun Peaks every Saturday, and part of the benefit to athletes’ lives includes lessons they learn about respecting the Skwelkwek’welt (Sun Peaks) land.

“As native people, [respecting the land] is the way it is for us. We learn that at a young age … with everything we do on the mountain, I think giving back, cleaning up and respecting [the land] keeps everybody coming back for the future,” Celesta said.

The team’s next raffle includes over $600 in cleaning supplies for homes, and raffle funds help to support the whole team. The draw is on Feb. 11, and tickets are $5. You can e-transfer [email protected] to get tickets.

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