Montreal·Q&A

Learning to love winter: Former skier spends a day with immigrants on the slopes

40 newcomers will be hitting the slops of the Chantecler ski resort in the Laurentians this weekend to get their first taste of skying and learn how to embrace Quebec winters.

Sandy Wolofsky created OuiCanSki, an initiative to help newcomers learn how to love Quebec winters

Last April, OuiCanSki held its first event at the Chantecler ski resort in the Laurentians. (Submitted by Sandy Wolofsky)

A group of newcomers to Quebec will be hitting the slopes for the first time.

About 40 of them, many from much warmer climates, will be at the Chantecler ski resort in the Laurentians on Saturday to try out skiing. The event is being put on by OuiCanSki, an organization that introduces immigrants to skiing to help them embrace Quebec winters. 

Sandy Wolofsky, a sports agent for amateur athletes and a former competitive skier, founded OuiCanSki last year, after reflecting on how her immigrant grandparents learned to be Canadian by skiing on Mount Royal. 

Wolofsky turned to two Montreal immigrant-support organizations, CACI and Ometz, to connect with newcomers to organize a day on the slopes.

They all get lift tickets, ski rentals and a two-hour lesson.

Wolofsky spoke to All in a Weekend host Sonali Karnick.

Why did you take on this kind of project? 

My mother's parents, when they came here, they wanted to be Canadian and one of the things they did to become Canadian was they went to Mount Royal and they learned how to ski. I have video from the 1940s of my grandparents skiing on Mount Royal with my mother and my uncle. When I was born, my mother put me on skis by the time I was one-and-a-half years old. So, I've always wanted to somehow honour my grandparents and thank them for doing all the work that has allowed me and my brothers and my cousins to have this wonderful life in Canada.

Where did you find the people to go on these trips? 

Last year I met someone who was involved with an organization called CACI, which is based out of Cartierville and she introduced me to people out there and they were my first group. After that was so successful, I met people in Côte-des-Neiges and Côte Saint-Luc who said to me, 'Wait, how come you haven't been to Ometz?' So … we started working together to have an Ometz day.

What is it like for people from hot countries to learn how to ski? 

Last year, we had 42 people from 13 different countries, most of them from the African continent. There were people from Cameroon there were people from Guinea, there were people … from all over the place. It was an amazing sight to see because clearly they were not all that comfortable with a lot of snow and they certainly were not comfortable on skis but they were smiling so it didn't matter how often they fell.

How is this being funded? 

I have a whole bunch of organizations that have approached me and expressed interest. But right now I'm one person trying to figure this all out bit by bit. So far, actually, I don't have any money, so it's really been off the goodness of a lot of people who've been helping me.

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