Ben Steiner (Contributor)
From the Lake Louise World Cup to the Nancy Greene Ski League, ski racing in Canada would simply not be possible if not for the hard work and dedication of volunteers. Whether it’s course work, administrative tasks or fundraising, every role plays a critical part in a successful ski racing season.
People volunteer for a whole host of reasons. Kayla Benbow, a former racer and ski coach has volunteered and benefited from volunteers throughout her time in ski racing. “I volunteer to give back, my parents did it for me and my sisters and instilled that in me,” she said. Family tradition is a big reason for many to volunteer, but there’s a lot more to it. There are many who put in the time just to be closer to the sport or to show their passion for skiing.
The commitment of volunteers is not only crucial on race days, but to the development of athletes across Canada. No matter how much money is donated or how many sponsors are brought in, nothing can replace the value that a person can give to an athlete. Whether it’s safety on the course or timing of a race; every role is irreplaceable when it comes to developing top athletes and putting on a successful race day.
As much as the volunteers help the athletes, often times it is a rewarding experience for them as well. At the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Benbow was part of the famous group of volunteers known as the “Weasel Workers” who kept the Olympic and Paralympic alpine courses in tip-top shape. “I love the camaraderie of the volunteer community. Being part of a small group like the “Weasel Workers” really felt like family” said the Whistler native. This is a feeling that happens not only at the top level but at every level.
Alain Doutre runs the race crew volunteers at Alpine Ski Club at Blue Mountain in Ontario. “We get most of our volunteers from non-parents,” he said, “There is a lot they can get out of it for themselves from volunteering, so it gives them the initiative.”
What are some of these benefits? Much like the “Weasel Workers,” Doutre spoke about how the community surrounding ski race volunteering is unlike anything else.
Although the community aspect is a major one, there is also another tantalizing piece available for Alpine Club volunteers. Many receive a discounted pass, something that for many families is the reason they are able to put their kids on the snow, whether in a racing capacity or not. The pass is not included with every club, but with many, it serves as an attractive element for potential volunteers.
Whether it be the camaraderie as Benbow highlights, the benefits which Doutre spoke of or simply giving back to the skiing community, volunteering in any capacity at any level of ski racing is a valuable contribution to the athletes and coaches who strive for the top levels of their sport. Maybe it’s on the slopes watching best racers in the world whizz by or making sure 10-year-olds have all the right registration papers, every role plays a part in the exhilarating sport which is ski racing.