West Kelowna will be the guinea pig for a brand new Special Olympics BC event next March.
The first-ever SOBC Snow Sports Festival will bring together Special Olympics athletes from B.C. and Alberta to race in alpine skiing events at Crystal Mountain Resort and compete in cross-country and snowshoeing events at Telemark Nordic Club March 2 and 3, 2013.
About 145 SOBC and 100 Special Olympics Alberta athletes and coaches are expected to travel to the Westside for the festival.
West Kelowna was chosen to host the event because Crystal Mountain Resort and Telemark Nordic Club have been “extremely supportive” of SOBC, said Cari Henri, manager of sport for the organization.
Megan Grittani-Livingstone, SOBC manager of communications, said the experience of hosting the 2007 SOBC Winter Games and 2011 SOBC Snow Sport Championships makes West Kelowna a great location for the inaugural event.
“This is a slightly larger competitive opportunity for athletes to come in from all over B.C., and many are coming from Alberta, to compete in a larger setting, giving them a great opportunity to show how much they’ve improved, meet other athletes, renew friendships and see coaches network as well,” said Grittani-Livingstone.
Henri said the plan is to make the SOBC Snow Sports Festival an annual competition.
“We’re hoping for the next two years it will be in West Kelowna, then we’ll look to see if there are other areas, just to spread it around the province,” said Henri.
According to Grittani-Livingstone, about 50 to 60 volunteers will be needed to help stage the races and provide educational opportunities throughout the event.
“It’s a real amazing experience to work with Special Olympics athletes and support them in action. Volunteering is a really fun opportunity and we’d love for people to get involved,” said Grittani-Livingstone.
She added there are few requirements necessary for those interested in helping out.
“Generally there’s going to be a wide range of needs…it’ll be an interesting opportunity for pretty much everybody.”