British Columbia

B.C. high school pilots snowboard academy

A small mountain town in B.C.'s Interior is piloting a high school program that also teaches snowboarding.

A small mountain town in B.C.'s Interior is piloting a high school program that also teaches snowboarding.

It's only natural that the town of Rossland, home to former Olympians Nancy Greene-Raine and Kerrin Lee-Gartner, should be the home of Canada's first high school snowboard academy.

Students at the Red Mountain Racers Ski Academy take high school at their own pace while receiving expert coaching and training from professional snowboarders.

Bernie Hoffman is a teacher-adviser who helps students with the academics.

"It's like a full-time job. They have to be disciplined about their sport and about their education. It's not a piece of cake, that's for sure," Hoffman said.

Rossland Secondary School's athlete's academy is no simple feat.

Twenty-eight students from across the globe combine school with intense coaching in their chosen sport: ski racing, alpine, free style, dance, and now, snowboarding.

"Basically, [it] gives them a chance to pursue that passion and not lose out on education," Hoffman said. "The education is much more fluid and based around their schedules, which can be pretty unusual." 

Tommy Pitman and his brother, Mitch, are the first students at Rossland Secondary's snowboard program.

The program has helped him pay more attention to snowboarding and his education, Pitman said, because he's more focused than he was last year.

"I probably didn't work as hard 'cause I didn't really pay attention, but now I have to pay attention because you are teaching yourself and the snowboarding will get a lot better because you have a lot more time on the hill," Pitman said.

While Pitman and his brother are the only two people signed up for snowboarding this year, interest is coming from far and wide.

Chris Hawkrigg is considering moving her family from Toronto so her daughter, Jennifer, can get an education and train on a board.

"You never know what can happen, but you have to give them the opportunity, and that is why we are here," Hawkrigg said.

Tuition ranges from $3,000 to $24,000 a year, depending on whether or not the student needs accommodation.

The goal of the academy is to get a new crop of athletes a good education, and an even brighter future pursuing their passion.