Helmut Spiegel and the Windermere Valley Ski Club FIS Team 2019 at Camp Fortune, Quebec. Submitted photo

From a snow pile to the slopes

Windermere Valley Ski club’s program director has spent a lifetime on the slopes

Helmut Spiegel, program director with the Windermere Valley Ski Club (WVSC) and four-time Olympic coach, has been climbing slopes to ski them since he was three years old.

His first memory on skis was “building a little snow pile in my front yard and skiing from there all the way down to my neighbour’s three or four houses down the lane because it was a little downhill,” he said. “I loved it. At first I was exhilarated.”

Growing up in a mountain town in the Austrian alps, skiing was a way of life.

“That’s we did,” he said. “We went outside every day and we froze our hands and feet every day because we didn’t come home in time because it was so much fun to ski our little hills.”

The fun part was heading down, but he wasn’t so crazy about the climbs required before the payoff.

“My dad would carry the skis, and I’d whine and follow,” he said.

Despite grumbling on the way up, Mr. Spiegel feels lucky to have learned his sport so young and to have gotten to enjoy it for all of his life.

He will be returning to the slopes this winter with a group of students from eight to 14 years old to share his knowledge, skills and joy.

Kirsten Boulay, WVSC president, said the Valley is privileged to have a ski coach of Mr. Spiegel’s caliber living here.

“He has an incredible wealth of knowledge,” she said. “It’s a really big deal that he’s chosen to give his time to our club.”

But Mr. Spiegel feels lucky too.

“It’s super rewarding,” he said. “The kids are full of smiles pretty much every moment unless they freeze their toes … If you can convey to them that you are there for them to become their best then they just appreciate you immensely every moment they are with you.”

While he strives to ensure the students are “experiencing the whole mountain with me in a fun way,” he said he will also help them improve their skills.

“I will focus on teaching them a technique that makes them feel very confident and competent in race courses,” he said.

Registration for the WVSC is now open. For more information or to sign up, visit www.windermerevalleyskiclub.com/registration

Ski and Gear Swap

The ski club is holding its annual Ski and Gear Swap on Saturday, November 2nd at the Columbia Valley Centre.

Ms. Boulay said the swap, which has been running for around 30 years, is a great way to find some new or new-to-you gear as well as to “celebrate the start of winter and get everybody pumped up for the season ahead.”

Those with gear to sell can drop off their skis, snowboards, boots, skates, winter jackets and sports gear from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.; the sale will run from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m..

Mr. Spiegel said WVSC volunteers will be on hand at the sale to help out and offer “expert advice” about the gear as needed, equipping the Valley for a winter of fun.

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