'A great experience': Muslim group helps Whitehorse families hit the slopes

The Yukon Muslim Society hosted a two-week winter sports workshop to help Muslim youth learn how to ski or snowboard.

Yukon Muslim Society plans to introduce youth to many more different kinds of outdoor activities

Fatima Javed, youth outreach coordinator with the Yukon Muslim Society, and one of the participants during the Feb. 19 event at which the society offered free ski and snowboard lessons to local Muslim children and youth. (Submitted by Adil Darvesh)

Hina Shahid and her husband and two children have lived in the Yukon for the past two and half years.

This past weekend, the Muslim family of four went skiing, and took lessons, for the first time thanks to an initiative by the Yukon Muslim Society that encourages youth to participate in winter activities.

"It was a great experience," said Shahid. 

It was the second time this year the Muslim society offered ski and snowboard lessons at Mount Sima, south of Whitehorse.

It's an initiative that's very personal for one of the event's three organizers.

On Saturday, Feb. 19, the Yukon Muslim Society hosted their second workshop day for Muslim youth to learn how to ski or snowboard at Mount Sima. (Submitted by Adil Darvesh )

"I grew up here and winter sports are just one of those things where there's just so many barriers," said Fatima Javed, the society's treasurer and youth outreach coordinator.

She said barriers include the cost of renting or buying equipment. Beyond that, she added, parents who are immigrants or new to the Yukon might not know how to teach their kids.

'Spark that joy'

The ski and snowboarding lessons were fully subsidized through the Taking IT Global's Rising Youth grant, which helps young people host community events. 

The $1,500 grant covered two lessons, the equipment rental and snack bags for the kids and staff.

Javed said the ultimate goal was to introduce youth to the sport and "to spark that joy for them and maybe start that passion."

Minha Khan getting ready to snowboard. The equipment for the workshops were fully subsidized by a Taking IT Global Rising Youth grant. (Submitted by Adil Darvesh)

"There's also kind of a culture that, like, if you're not familiar with it, it's kind of intimidating to get into it," she said.

For Javed, it was also important that the lessons include mentors who are also people of colour or identify as Muslim. She was pleased to see how many youth and mentors turned up for lessons — more than 20 children and teenagers participated, a sign of the growing Muslim community in the area.

"When I was growing up, there was really no Muslim community [in Yukon]," she said. "I think there were just two of us families and then over the past 10 to 15 years, it's really grown."

Javed with some of the program participants. Eight-year-old Alizah Adnan, who went skiing for the first time in her life and picked it up quickly, is second from the right. (Submitted by Adil Darvesh )

Before the first mosque opened in Whitehorse, Javed remembers praying in the basement of the Whitehorse United Church.

"Now, we really want to make it more like a community space to hold events and just build that community," she said.

Increasing confidence

Shahid said her eight-year-old daughter, Alizah Adnan, loved skiing and picked it up quickly.

"What I really like about skiing is like when I go down, I go really fast," said Adnan. 

"And instead of a beginner now, I'm a junior," she added proudly.

Over 20 youth ages four to 16 participated in the Yukon Muslim Society's two weekend workshop program to learn either ski or snowboard at Mount Sima. (Submitted by Adil Darvesh )

Shahid said having outdoor activities like these increases her children's confidence.

"They have a different learning activity and they can develop their social skills, how to interact with others in different age groups," she said.

She said going skiing this past weekend also gave her and her husband the chance to interact and have a good time with other community members.

"It's a mental and physical break for us," she said. "I really enjoyed it."

Javed said the initiative is the first event of a series of activities the society hopes to host for the community.

"We want to introduce youth to all the different kinds of outdoor activities," she said. "I think next, we're going to do snowshoeing in the next couple of weeks. And then we want to transition to more like spring-summer activities, like hiking."


  • An earlier version of this story referenced Muslim prayer services at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Steele St. In fact, this took place at the Whitehorse United Church.
    Feb 23, 2022 12:00 PM CT