With the first sprinkle of snow on the mountains comes the countdown to Whistler Blackcomb’s opening day.
Among the most excited mountain riders are the members of the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club (WVSC), which is adding some fresh programs to its roster this season.
Dan Raymond, who guided the snowboarding halfpipe squad to Sochi this year is also returning to coach at WVSC now that he plans to stick around Whistler and the Sea to Sky a lot more.
“This feels like I’m re-establishing my roots, or strengthening them, by focusing on Whistler-based activities year round,” Raymond said. “I’m really excited about the prospect of focusing on skill development as opposed to maintaining high performance preparedness. It’s always been my favourite part of coaching snowboarding, to get to focus on it for five days a week with highly motivated athletes. That’s the kind of snowboarding that I’m really excited to get back to.”
Raymond is a long-serving staff member at the WVSC, having started back in 1999 when he first moved to Whistler. While most of his background is in technical development, he soon gained the competition experience needed for high performance coaching.
“Rob (Picard) took a bit of a chance on me because I didn’t have any competitive experience at that point,” recalled Raymond. “Rob took me on and surprised me by entering me into my first contest. He definitely pushed me into the deep end. That spiked my interest in competing. I had this belief and curiosity to know everything about the athletic experience in order to be a more effective coach.”
Competition is a driving force at the WVSC, with the highest performing athletes participating in “The Program,” a specialized season-long coaching program designed to take riders to the next level. Past members have included snowboarding Olympian Mercedes Nicoll and slopestyle prodigy Darcy Sharpe.
“Some of these members have been in our program for as long as seven years and they wanted to have their own image,” said Rob Picard, owner and director of the WVSC. “We (compete at) the Dew Tour, all the big contests here in Canada and follow some comps in the States as well. We do a lot of training camps at these events because they have the best facilities.”
Members looking for non-competitive development are accommodated as well with plenty of on-hill groups sticking to the terrain of Whistler Blackcomb and even some time in the backcountry. The “Backcountry Project” will get riders educated and trained on avalanche safety, snowmobile operation and terrain choice.
“There’s been a big focus in the last few years on urban and street features, handrails and whatnot,” Picard said. “We’re just trying to breed a whole generation of kids that are ready to be in the backcountry and follow that career path.”
For more information on the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club go to whistler valleysnowboardclub.ca.