Dec 1, 2010 | Marmot, Winter 2010


When the Mountain Sport Centre opens at Mount Washington Alpine Resort later this winter, it will be the culmination of years of intense planning, fundraising and building. But it won’t be the only accomplishment for the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society (VIMSS).

VIMSS was formed in July 2003, following the announcement that Vancouver and Whistler would host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Local leaders in sport wondered how it would be possible to get an athlete from Vancouver Island to the podium at the Olympics.

VIMSS was the first step. It comprises representatives from a multitude of winter and summer mountain sports, Mount Washington Alpine Resort, Pacificsport Vancouver Island and members of the community.

The Society’s primary mandate is to provide annual grants to competitive Island athletes who compete in mountain sports on Vancouver Island, to help offset the costs associated with regional and national competitions as well as advanced training.

“The original reason VIMSS was founded was to help kids from the islands get to competitions on the Lower Mainland,” said Joanna Fox, a director with VIMSS.

“It’s pretty easy math to realize how much more it costs for them versus the kids who don’t have to factor in ferries and overnight accommodation.”
The first travel grants were awarded in 2005-06 to 15 athletes. Since then, an additional 60 grants have been awarded. Athletes are eligible for grants in the spring and fall.

In addition to funding athletes, VIMSS took on a significant infrastructure project based at Mount Washington. This included upgrades to the Nordic trail network and Biathlon Range and an improved lighting system that enabled the Resort to host two International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup events leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics. It also allowed the Resort to host nearly 300 Olympic athletes and coaches plus six national Paralympic Committee teams and 67 Paralympic athletes immediately prior to the Games.

The second phase of the infrastructure project is about to be completed this winter: the Mountain Sports Centre, which will offer hostel-like accommodation, a modern gym, sport science lab and central hub for mountain sports athletes.

“Thanks to all of our partners, Vancouver Island emerging athletes are going to benefit from the services that this facility will provide,” VIMSS Chairman Rick Morson said.

“After an unprecedented international season of success in all of the sports that we work with, we know that supporting these young athletes as they develop will further strengthen the culture of sport that we are experiencing in Canada post-2010 Winter Games.”

“Vancouver Island athletes didn’t reach the podium at the 2010 Winter Olympics, but their presence at the Games did not go unnoticed”, Fox said.

Black Creek’s Andrea Lee was a forerunner for the Nordic ski events, checking out the track before competition began. She is currently training with the National Development Centre Team based in Thunder Bay, Ont. (NDC is an umbrella program of the national ski team, aiming to develop athletes and put them on the national team.)

“If you look closely, in the background of a pre-2010 Games TV commercial featuring Olympians Maelle Ricker and Dominique Maltais was Carle Brenneman of Courtenay,” Fox said. “Carle, who has represented Canada twice at the Junior World Snowboard Championships, raced against Ricker in the final of the 2010 National Championships and has been named to the National Development Team.”

Duncan’s Braydon Luscombe was front and centre at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, carrying the IPC flag in the opening ceremonies. He was also a forerunner for the slalom events at Whistler. A BC team member, Luscombe has been making steady progression in Para Alpine skiing and has set his sights on Sochi, Russia for 2014.

The Mountain Sports Society isn’t just for winter athletes; summer athletes are also supported in their endeavours. Courtenay’s Simon Garstin is one such athlete; he is an up-and-comer on the World Cup Downhill mountain bike circuit.    Garstin recently signed with Lama Cycles and can be found, when at home, training on trails that he builds in his backyard.

“With many VIMSS funded athletes representing Canada at international events in the mountain sports of alpine, Nordic and freestyle skiing, snowboarding, biathlon, adaptive sports and mountain biking, stay tuned for the progress of Vancouver Island athletes as they continue to take on the world,” Fox said.

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