Snowboarding was the name of the game in Fort Simpson in mid-March and there was even an Olympic celebrity who stopped by to help out.
An enthusiastic group was at the Fort Simpson Ski Hill on March 14 and 15 for a snowboarding clinic. It was open to anyone from Grade 5 and up, according to Kali Norn, the village’s recreation co-ordinator, who organized the clinic with Steve Meek, wellness co-ordinator with the Liidlii Kue First Nation (LKFN). Previous snowboarding experience wasn’t necessary in order to take part.
“Approximately 15 to 18 riders participated in the clinic,” said Norn. “We were so pleased with the number of participants that showed up.”
It was a chance to learn about the sport and get some instruction from two special guest coaches: Liam Gill, a member of LKFN who represented Canada at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, and Michael Barton, a snowboard coach at Whistler Blackcomb in B.C. and head snowboard coach with the Indigenous Life Sport Academy.
Gill also came to the community in March 2022, shortly after returning home from China, as part of an NWT tour that included visits to Yellowknife and Fort Smith. Gill was born in Calgary, but his grandmother, Rosemary Gill, still lives in Fort Simpson.
Equipment was provided at the recent clinic, but it was on a first-come, first-served basis, and once riders made their way down the hill, there was a snowmobile ride waiting to take them back up.
NWT Snowboard chipped in with some funding to help bring Gill and Barton in for the clinic; Norn said the territorial sport organization has been a big help in supporting the village with its snowboard programming this season.
In addition to funding from NWT Snowboard, Norn said there was assistance from the Village of Fort Simpson, LKFN, Deh Cho Regional Helicopters and the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA).
She also said the excitement of the clinic carried on once it wrapped up.
“This season, the participants have all done great,” she said. “They all came out and were all eager to continue riding, even after the clinic was done for the day.”