Dec 1, 2008 | Marmot, Winter 2008

Section 8 Snow Sport Institute

A new style of instructor training is coming to Mount Washington Alpine Resort.

Section 8 Snowsport Institute is Vancouver Island’s only ski and snowboard training company, offering intensive four- or 12-week training courses.

“Our philosophy is that great snowsport professionals are diversely trained and can adapt to any situation,” owner Tobin Leopkey writes on his website about the Institute.

Leopkey grew up skiing the deep and steep tree lines on Vancouver Island but has been found teaching and participating in outdoor pursuits in various corners of the globe. He spent several years instructing at Whistler before turning his sights to the Island.

“I grew up in Nanaimo and ski at Mount Washington,” he said. After spending a few years teaching for someone else’s company, he decided to strike out on his own.

“I thought about the Island; I knew there was no other company similar to this one here. It’s an ideal place, it gets lots of snow.”

Leopkey takes care of the ski instruction, and partner Mike Bray looks after snowboard instruction. Bray is also the Technical Director of Snowboarding at Mount Washington.

Bray has taught across Canada from Ontario to B.C. as well as internationally in Andorra. For the past 13 years he has spent his winters in the mountains and summers just seconds from some of the best surfing beaches.

Leopkey’s wife Kana is also a ski instructor with more than 14 years teaching in Japan and Canada. The couple has a baby daughter who will spend her winter trekking the Resort in a baby backpack.

As Section 8 grows, Leopkey and Bray have struck a deal to employ some of Mount Washington’s professional coaches when the need arises.

They also contract out the backcountry and avalanche portion of their training to Jan Neuspiel and Cliff Umpleby of Island Alpine Guides.

Section 8 offers two programs, a four-week and a 12-week Snowsport Leadership Training program. The longer program is designed to create well-rounded skiers and snowboarders and prepare them for jobs in the industry beyond simply instructing, Leopkey said.

The first two weeks of both courses are spent on ski or snowboard improvement. The third week includes some backcountry skills such as navigation and building a snow cave. The fourth week is devoted to Level 1 instructor certification (either Canadian Ski Instructors Association or Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors).

The remaining weeks of the more intensive course goes into race training, the terrain park, wilderness first aid, avalanche safety training and more technical training, as well as Level 2 certification.

Leopkey hopes to draw clientele from the United Kingdom and Australia, where there is interest in taking intensive instructor courses. He attended the London ski show along with Mount Washington Director of Marketing Karen Bonell and Sarah Nicholson of Tourism Mount Washington, and said the experience was positive.

Section 8 is based out of the Comox Valley. Program participants will be housed in one of two local hostels, and transported to Mount Washington for lessons Monday through Friday. On the weekends, Section 8 hosts will arrange day trips around Vancouver Island – surfing, bungy jumping, diving, whatever clients are interested in.

More from this Issue