DEVELOPING CHAMPIONS  Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club has hired Ted Bigelow as its ski coach ahead of the upcoming season, who hopes to build a top-calibre program for years to come. Photo by Eric Elliott

DEVELOPING CHAMPIONS Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club has hired Ted Bigelow as its ski coach ahead of the upcoming season, who hopes to build a top-calibre program for years to come. Photo by Eric Elliott

By Eric Elliott

Pioneer Staff

After spending the better part of four decades working in high performance sports, Ted Bigelow is going back to his roots by becoming the newest coach for the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club.

Coming from his last position in Manitoba where he worked for more than 30 years, Mr. Bigelow is mostly happy to be escaping the frigid winters of Winnipeg.

Its (the Columbia Valley) got great skiing, has fantastic scenery with log cabins and its a lot warmer than Winnipeg, he said. Its really cold and there are no mountains or anything to get in the road. I know people in Invermere think its really cold when its -12 C but -12 (in Winnipeg) skiers are taking their jackets off and going around in T-shirts.

Mr. Bigelow comes to the Columbia Valley after working as the chef de mission for Team Manitoba since 1987 and retiring in 2015. As one of the original partners at Nipika Mountain Resort, he came to the resort last winter working with local skiers before he was presented with the opportunity to work full-time at the resort this winter in conjunction with being the head coach of the Nordic Ski Club.

I think hell bring a much higher level of expertise than the average club coach that you hire, said Nipika owner Lyle Wilson. A lot of these young guys who come into these small time coaching jobs are just starting out whereas weve got a guy whos totally seasoned and hes seen the whole picture.

Over the years, Mr. Bigelow has worked with a variety of athletes across multiple sports. Hes fondly remembered as one of the originators of the Jackrabbit cross-country skiing program designed to help those new to the sport learn the fundamentals of skiingwhile also having spent time working with Canadian Olympic medalists such as Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen. In his years working with high performance athletes, hes forged life-long relationships that extend well beyond the playing field of their respective careers regardless of the results.

Winning is everything, but it depends on what your definition of winning is, he said. You have to create a situation and an environment where the kids can win and the first part of winning is having fun and being able to have a good experience.

For him, though, his coaching doesnt stop there.

Second of all, its in developing personal skills and life skills. I think its really important to develop the kids as people and Im not so worried about how theyre going to do in the race in January or even this year because its longer term than that.

As a coach of the local Nordic Ski Club, Mr. Bigelow said he wants to follow the lead from Canadas Own The Podium organization, which changed athletics in Canada by eliminating what he calls accidental champions.

One of the things they did was say we dont want to have accidental champions and we dont want gold medals by Friday, he said. It means that youre developing a system, not just trying to do as Malcolm Gladwell says, an outlier champion. We want to have champions that will be consistent over and over again.

For him, this process is enacted through building a system that can be replicated by any coach throughout the future, whether Mr. Bigelow is there or not. Its a process hes thoroughly looking forward to, he said.

Im really enjoying meeting people in the valley and turning kids onto skiing while working with great people who will be successful in the future. I think if we can be successful in that and they do it and they love it, then weve won. Thats what a winner is for me.

To find out more, visit www.tobycreeknordic.ca.