Former Olympian Beckie Scott was surrounded by a crowd of more than 75 people during her visit to the Onion Lake cross-country ski trails near Terrace last weekend.
It was the perfect wrap up to the kids’ Jackrabbit season, with youth and parents peppering the three-time Olympian with questions about her skiing career and experiences.
The event was also enlivened with games, races, prizes, and a campfire and potluck as the season-end party for the Jackrabbits kids ski program.
Beckie Scott, three-time Canadian Olympian, was looped into the event because she was in the area visiting the Kitsumkalum and Moricetown First Nations with Spirit North, a non-profit that seeks to use cross-country skiing to empower Indigenous youth.
Scott has won numerous World Cup medals, competed in the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, earned gold in the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, and silver in Turin in 2006.
She had small town beginnings in Vegreville, Alberta, and was heavily involved in her local ski club when she was young, she said, sharing her story of how she gradually climbed through the ranks of competition.
She said after her presentation that it was great to be in the area.
“I’m thrilled to be in Terrace. For me, having come from a small town and a small club… I love getting back to the grassroots of the sport in Canada.”
“Community was always such a big part of my experience as a skier growing up,” she said. “Every time I come to a community and just see the parents and the families, it’s just so inspiring,” she said. “I love it.”
Asked what her message is, Scott says it flows out of her story.
“I came from a remote community, I wasn’t identified as a kid with a lot of talent necessarily when I was young,” she said. “I think my message is if you really work hard, and are prepared to overcome obstacles, anything is possible.”
Scott was in Hazelton at the Gitanmaax Hall the day prior, March 9, acting in her role as Chief Executive Officer of Spirit North.
The program started in Alberta, previously known as Ski Fit North, with the aim of empowering Indigenous youth through sport.
It just expanded into B.C. this year, launching in Kitsumkalum, Moricetown, and Penticton with federal government funding through Indigenous Northern Affairs Canada.
Spirit North partners with schools, providing free skis and gear to the school as well as a year of play-based ski programming for students.
Among the schools who applied in B.C., the Na Aksa Gila Kyew Learning Centre in Kitsumkalum had letters of support from the principal and band, and that’s why they were chosen, said Spirit North spokesperson Laura Filipow. Because of limited area for skiing at the school, Spirit North partnered with the Snow Valley Nordic Ski Club to use the Onion Lake trails for their programming, which has been bussing each class there once a week at different times.
“We’ve had so much support from the local ski club,” said Filipow. “The success of that program in Kitsumkalum this year is in large part due to the club being so willing and open to them skiing there, and to helping out and volunteering.”
The program wraps up in March/April, and future programs will depend on funding.