The Grade 4/5 Snowpass helps new skiers and boarders take flight
Freestyle Canada – By the time skiers earn a spot with Freestyle Canada, they’ve spent hundreds, even thousands of days on snow. But some of the most important experiences are the earliest ones, because those provide a foundation for all the rest.
“As a kid, skiing meant freedom,” says Philippe Marquis. “When I was on my skis, I was free to do whatever.”
“Every weekend I spent at the mountain with my family. I was on the slope from 8:30 to lights out,” He continues.
Skiing gave Marquis a way to let loose and enjoy himself—but it also gave him a way to channel youthful rebellion. “I needed to do something different… so I started skiing trees, building jumps with my friends, rails… that was the kind of stuff that kept me busy and happy.”
Marquis was lucky to grow up in a family of skiers, with a cottage right at the base of a mountain. His older brother Vincent opened the door to freestyle, and Phil followed in his footsteps—all the way to the international level, the World Cup and the Olympics.
Giving that same strong foundation to every kid who wants to ski—whether they go on to compete at higher levels or not—is the main aim behind the Canada Ski Council’s (CSC) Grade 4/5 Snowpass Program. The pass gives kids between the ages of 9 – 11 three free days of skiing or snowboarding at each of 155 different ski areas and resorts across Canada. (For full details, visit www.skicanada.org.)
In the 20 years since first launching it, the CSC estimates that the Snowpass program has converted 500,000 skiers and snowboarders to the sport, says CSC president and CEO, Paul Pinchbeck.
“You might think, well those people are already skiers, so they’re just getting a discount. But the stats don’t bear that out: 70 per cent of people who purchase the pass are beginners and haven’t skied more than two or three times in the previous three years. Forty per cent of those are never-evers. “And they bring their families as well!”
Go to your nearest ski hill and it may not be immediately clear why having a strong and vibrant Snowpass program is so important to the skiing community. Or, beyond recruiting new skiers, why it matters to the elite levels of the sport.
In fact, it matters now more than ever. Sure, some of the 10 year-olds who use the Grade 4/5 pass may discover a passion for freestyle and grow up to become competitive skiers. But much more critical are the ones who simply become passionate about the sport. They are the ones who will grow up to be the lifetime skiers, dedicated fans and supporters, season pass holders—the lifeblood of skiing. Without that, the elite levels can’t thrive.
Engaging new participants is not just about the health of the sport, though—it’s about the participants and their families.
“The opportunity to bond as a family is limited today,” Pinchbeck points out. “Skiing and snowboarding is perhaps the only true family sport I can think of. It’s not one family member playing, and everybody else on the sidelines drinking hot chocolate.”
“We all go to the hill together… and at the end of the day we come back together and share our stories, and bond over it,” he adds, smiling. “It’s a sport for a lifetime: you can do this from eight to 80… or two to 102!”
Though it’s turned into a rewarding profession for him, the sport of skiing has a much richer heritage for Marquis. “Skiing for me was a great family affair.”
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Freestyle Canada is the governing body in Canada for the sport of Freestyle Skiing. With the support of its valued corporate sponsors along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium, FC develops Olympic and world champions in all disciplines of the sport. For more information about FC, please visit www.freestylecanada.ski