Several organizations in Calgary host summer camps for kids, but none of them compare to WinSport’s award-winning camps for kids aged 4-16.
Our camps are sport-based, as we believe sport is the perfect vehicle to help each child reach their greatest potential. Don’t believe us? We’ve compiled a list of unique facts about our camps that distinguish ours from the rest of the city.
1.) WinSport summer camp participants get to explore the largest outdoor space in the city. Canada Olympic Park spans a total of 229 acres!
2.) We leverage Calgary’s close proximity to the mountains to introduce summer camp participants to different environments, such as mountain trails and hikes in Kananaskis.
3.) Our summer camp menus are specifically designed to ensure our camp participants’ caloric intake so they have exactly what they need for the activities they’ll be participating in throughout the day. Having distinguished executive chef Liana Robberecht on the WinSport team, allows us to create meals with the best, high quality ingredients.
4.) The WinSport summer camp family is huge! Last year, 5,814 campers participated in WinSport summer camps.
5.) We offer more than a dozen camps across three different categories including hockey, sport and adventure and mountain bike!
It’s been 30 years since Robyn Perry, who was 12-years-old at the time, lit the cauldron at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium to officially start the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.
It’s the biggest party the city has ever seen and spawned a three-decade long love affair between winter sport, the City of Calgary and Calgarians in general.
“Arguably Calgary’s growth, even just the physical size of the city, can be tied to that coming out party on the world stage,” says Mount Royal University professor David Legg, a past President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Chair of Health and Physical Education at MRU. “It’s tough to name one specific thing as the most important legacy of 1988, but the facilities themselves are the easiest and most demonstrable to the lay person.”
History is rife with Olympic host cities that mothballed their venues almost as fast as they were constructed. Those cities include Sarajevo (winter, 1984); Atlanta (summer, 1996); Athens (summer, 2004) and Beijing (summer, 2008).
Calgary’s legacy facilities, however, have continued to play an important role in the city’s landscape and identity, with all the vital venues from 1988 still being fully utilized – except for the 90-metre ski jump tower at Canada Olympic Park, which is now the departure point for North America’s fastest zipline.
“If you were to count the number of people that have utilized the facilities that were built for 1988, we are hundreds of thousands of people I would guess, if you include all the different facilities combined in some form or another,” said Legg. “That’s a pretty significant impact over a 30-year span. Those impacts are difficult to demonstrate cause and effect and direct and indirect impacts, but, anecdotally, and certainly my gut tells me, that they are significant.”
Those venues continue to play a significant role in WinSport being relevant three decades after Canada Olympic Park was turned over to the Calgary Olympic Development Association by the Government of Canada following the ’88 Games. They are critical to WinSport fulfilling its mission, which is: to provide opportunities for Canadians to discover, develop and excel at sport through world-class training, facilities and exceptional experiences.
“The founding organizers of the Calgary Games deserve so much credit for having the forethought to ensure that the facilities at Canada Olympic Park would be relevant for future generations, thanks to the endowment funds that were created following the Games,” says WinSport President and CEO Barry Heck.
WinSport doesn’t receive direct government funding for its day-to-day operations. It relies on revenue from the ski and snowboard hill, the four ice rinks, public gym, programs, summer camps, its variety of summer and winter activities, and its robust food and beverage operation, which hosts more than 1,000 events yearly.
According to a recent study conducted by Calgary Economic Development, WinSport contributes $120 million of positive economic impact annually to the City of Calgary. This is in addition to the social and cultural impact on the community.
While the facilities have continued to draw Canadian and international athletes for training and competition, perhaps the longest lasting impact of the 1988 Games are the “legacy babies.” These are athletes who wouldn’t have been introduced to certain sports if they weren’t available to them as they were exploring sport.
“Being able to be thrown down a luge track when I was in my adolescence, that was an incredible experience,” says Sam Edney, who first discovered luge in Grade 9 at the suggestion of a physical education teacher. He finished in sixth place this week in Pyeongchang at his fourth Olympic Games. “If you are a kid from Calgary or Alberta, then you are really lucky because we have that opportunity to have access to these facilities.”
Edney is just one of a handful of athletes whose lives would have taken tremendously different paths if they didn’t have access to the Canada Olympic Park venues. Bobsledder Helen Upperton, a silver medallist at the Vancouver 2010 Games, first tried luge as a 12-year-old and was then lured to bobsleigh after college. Lugers Alex Gough, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith often credit their success with the opportunities provided to them thanks to the ’88 Games.
Ski cross racer Brady Leman’s mom worked at Canada Olympic Park as a ski instructor, among other roles, while he was growing up. That gave him access to the hill essentially every day of the week. He is one of 171 athletes competing in Pyeongchang that has either competed or trained at WinSport’s facilities at Canada Olympic Park or the Bill Warren Training Centre in Canmore.
“I had some pretty cool opportunities as a kid was growing up in Calgary, especially spending so much time here (Canada Olympic Park),” said Leman, who won gold on Day 12 in Pyeongchang. “I got exposed to a ton of different sports when I was younger. I think skiing was always in our family and it is definitely in my blood, but I think if it wasn’t that, I would have picked something up else like speed skating, ski jumping or luge.
“Being in Calgary gives you the opportunity to be exposed to those kinds of things and that’s not an opportunity that every kid gets.”
The facilities at Canada Olympic Park have not only withstood the test of time, but have continued to thrive. With a halfpipe upgraded to Olympic standards in 2011, WinSport has drawn some of the world’s great athletes, including legendary snowboarder Shaun White, who held training camps in Calgary for each of the past three years.
The moguls World Cup was recently held in January on the moguls pitch at Canada Olympic Park for the 11th time, while five aerials World Cups have been held there.
The luge World Cup was held in Calgary in November, with Edney and Gough each capturing silver medals – the first time ever two Canadians have won medals at a World Cup in Calgary. In fact, more than 18,000 runs took place on the Calgary track during the 2016-17 winter season.
“For one of the venues that has been around for as long as it has, WinSport and the legacy has done a great job of maintaining the venue and keeping it relevant and up to date,” said Gough, a silver medallist in South Korea. “It’s great for us to have as a training facility and great for us to be here and be able to race on it.”
It’s these venues that are playing a significant role in determining whether the City of Calgary decides to bid on the 2026 Winter Games. Many would only require renovations rather than entirely new facilities. In the case of the sliding track at COP, a refurbishment is scheduled for this spring after WinSport secures the funding required. This facelift is exclusive of a potential Olympic bid.
Upperton’s parents drove her across the city in her early sliding days. Little did she know that that the 1.5-kilometre track would play a huge part of her life, including her introduction to her partner, Jesse Lumsden, a member of Canada’s men’s Olympic bobsleigh team.
“I always say that the sliding sports, a lot of times, it’s a matter of location,” said Upperton, who teamed up with Shelley-Ann Brown to win silver at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. “We happen to live in a city with all these great legacy venues and my parents took me to use them. Eleven years of my life went by. I travelled all over the world, represented my country at two Olympic Games and met amazing people, including Jesse. I had so many great experiences that shaped me into the person I am.”
In fact, the 1988 Games have shaped the lives of thousands.
“Part of Calgary’s DNA is that we were a successful Olympic sport city,” said Legg. “Even Salt Lake City, I don’t know if that’s part of their ethos or how the present themselves, but for us, that’s our signature.”
A child’s mental and physical development is crucial between the ages of three to five, which is why WinSport took the steps to create an Early Childhood Development (ECD) program called Early Explorers.
Recent studies of ECD indicate that over 50 percent of children entering Kindergarten in Alberta are not developing appropriately in the key areas of development. (EcMap Project, 2014)
As WinSport has been a pioneer in programming, the organization began to carefully look at how it can address this issue and build the physical and cognitive development of children through sport. The idea to create the program was inspired from WinSport’s legacy, which was formed by relentless, bold, and fearless individuals. The organization’s goal is to continue that legacy by creating the next generation of leaders – children who will make an impact and continue to inspire their community.
Previously, WinSport’s focus has been on children over the age of 5, but the Early Explorers program now allows the organization to address the crucial development of children in earlier ages.
To build the program, WinSport worked with the First 2000 Days Network. This group of early childhood experts are tapping into the science, stating 85 percent of the brain’s wiring happens between the ages of 0 and 5. (Alberta Family Wellness Initiative, 2011).
“WinSport’s early childhood programming embraces children’s inquisitive nature and creates opportunities to support and enhance their rapid development,” explains Hollie Cressy, Manager of Sport Development who helped create the Early Explorers program. “We believe children are strong, capable individuals and we value their ability to boldly discover the world around them and fearlessly return to nature and the outdoors.”
The outdoor play component of our ECD program is complimented by the newly designed calm and nurturing indoor learning space in the Markin MacPhail Centre.
“This engaging indoor and outdoor learning environment will stimulate children’s curiosity and sense of wonderment by providing experiences with sporting equipment, nature-based play, obstacle courses, and other activities,” Cressy explains. “In our program we intentionally design stimulating environments that will promote active play and sparks them to explore which ultimately motivates them to move. Another important element is the equipment we put in these spaces and environments. We will have logs, stumps and branches that children will engage with – this leads to developing fundamental movement skills including balance, coordination, jumping, crawling and running.”
Cressy also says another unique part of the program is that children are encouraged to lead their own learning.
“The day-to-day curriculum outcomes are not pre-determined, but rather child-led, allowing them to explore the world around them and guide their own discoveries through dramatic play, art, indoor learning centres like a sand table and a weaving station. Children will spend a large portion of their time outdoors in a variety of weather conditions as this will help build their resilience and creativity within this environment.”
The program will be facilitated by Early Childhood Educators with a minimum of a diploma in Early Childhood Education.
Parent Jennifer Nahu provided insight on the development of the program.
“I had the pleasure to see the time, consideration, learning and effort that has been put into this space and into creating a unique program for Calgary children,” Nahu explains. “WinSport has created an engaging program that will have children learning about the world around them with an emphasis on physical movement nestled in a space that only WinSport can offer. Children will be immersed in movement exploration and sport with a big outdoor component. I am personally excited for my own preschool child to experience this one.”
WinSport developed the Girls Only Athlete and Leadership program (GOAL) to combat an alarming statistic regarding girls’ participation in sport. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, by the age of 14, girls are dropping out of sport at twice the rate of boys.
It’s the primary reason why WinSport created the GOAL program, which celebrates girls staying in sport, cultivates interest in winter sport and develops opportunities for young athletes to pursue their dreams.
The program is for girls aged 10-16 where they can participate in either a five-week or nine-week program. Activities and the overall design of the program is geared towards keeping girls happy, healthy and active through sport and mentorship.
Kenedi Fairgrieve Park recently completed the program and says it had a lasting effect on her.
“It was really fun trying all the different sports to see what interests me,” Park says. “I also really enjoyed making connections with the other girls in the program, several of whom I have a continued friendship with. It was very Inspirational to train with all the different female athletes.”
The GOAL program focuses on introducing the girls to several sports so they can both build confidence and spike interest in new sports. Some of the sports include skiing, snowboarding, hockey, trampoline, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and luge, all of which are supported by weekly dryland training.
Park says the wide range of sports kept her engaged.
“It’s a great opportunity to try many different sports to get a feel of what you would like to do and it pushed me out of my comfort zone and it really made me realize how certain sports can be challenging,” Park explains. “I really enjoyed working out the gym and doing yoga.”
WinSport is excited to launch a new program that will help newcomers to Canada integrate into the Calgary community by introducing them to winter sport.
The WinSport Newcomers program will welcome 60 newcomers to skate, ski and snowboard lessons at WinSport this winter so they can embrace winter and meet fellow Calgarians.
Barry Heck, WinSport President & CEO says the program is an extension of what WinSport has been doing for decades.
“Since the 1960s, WinSport has been a congregation point for Calgarians to come learn how to ski. And since we hosted the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, we’ve grown to become a premier destination where people of all ages come to ski, snowboard, skate and play hockey,” Heck explains. “We take great pride in welcoming people of all ages and abilities to winter sports where we can help build their confidence in sport and in life. The newcomers program is another way in which we can remove barriers and help integrate our new neighbours to the community.”
The idea was born after the success of a pilot program WinSport ran during the past two winter seasons. WinSport worked with local organizations, including the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA) to identify a family interested in participating in a ski lesson. Since 2015, two families took ski lessons. Following the success of the pilot program, CIWA decided to support WinSport’s initiative to expand.
Meanwhile, this past spring the Calgary Christian School held a floor hockey tournament fundraiser, which raised just under $10,000 to help newcomers integrate into Canada.
“Our school welcomes students from all over the world. Because they are new to Calgary, we want them to feel welcomed, and included, and part of what’s happening so that they’ll grow to be confident and active participants in their communities,” said Leona Schaap, communications coordinator for the Calgary Christian School. “WinSport’s Newcomer Program helps our new families integrate into Canadian culture and make Calgary feel like home. We are grateful for the opportunity to support this unique program!”
Instructing sport is nothing new to WinSport, however, introducing sport to newcomers is a relatively new endeavour. To ensure best practices are exercised when introducing newcomers to these sports, WinSport will be working with Simon Barrick, PhD Candidate at the University of Calgary, to adopt best practices in sport integration. His doctoral research involves exploring lived experience of newcomers to Canada in introductory winter sport programs.
WinSport’s partnering with Barrick garnered even more support. Calgarian Bruce Shultz heard about WinSport’s newcomer program and decided to support it though a significant financial donation.
“I was very impressed with Simon Barrick’s research involving the question of identity, inclusion and belongingness of newcomers,” says Shultz. “Sport has played such an important role in my life and I wanted to support the newcomer program. The idea of introducing people new to our country through sport is a great way for them to integrate into our community, meet their new neighbours and begin a shared sense of belonging.”
The support received for the WinSport Newcomers Program will allow WinSport to introduce 60 newcomers to winter lessons. Participants will be placed in groups of 10, which will allow them to connect with others and share the experience together.
How can you help?
WinSport is always looking for people or organizations to donates funds, equipment or clothing so we can continue welcoming newcomers to snow and ice. To put it into perspective, an additional $5,000 would put 15 more people into winter lessons.
As many newcomers have never experienced winter, they won’t likely have winter apparel. If you would like to donate coats, toques and gloves (no equipment) drop-off areas are set up at the following locations from Oct. 3 – Nov. 13:
WinSport has launched a new multi-faceted sport training program to help both developing and competitive athletes reach their full potential.
The Athlete Development Program was launched earlier this month. It is based on the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) framework and scientifically driven performance strategy, where coaches provide the right training for each athlete, based on age and stage of growth and development.
“The rationale behind this program is to really match our mission, which is to provide opportunities for Canadians to discover, develop and excel at sport through world-class training, facilities and exceptional experiences,” explains Bernie Asbell, Vice-President of Sport Operations.
Fall and winter programs run over several weeks and are designated by LTAD stages: learn to train, train to train and train to compete.
Asbell says one of the unique aspects of the Athlete Development program is that it is run on WinSport’s world-class campus, offering an environment and facilities unlike any other in the city.
“We tap into all of our assets, so we’ll use our hill outside, the training floor and equipment in the Performance Training Centre and other indoor areas,” Asbell says. “Because of our unique training environment, it’s easy for athletes to get inspired and motivated to reach their training goals.”
The program also includes hockey-specific training for both during the season and in the off-season. For example, one program helps a player reach peak performance so they can be at their best during pre-season evaluations while carrying that momentum into the season.
“We really take a long-term perspective so not only will the athlete be ready for evaluations, they’ll be at peak performance all season and for the playoffs,” Asbell explains. “Our training involves both mental and physical conditioning where they learn how to prepare, condition and push themselves to really learn what they are capable of.”
For more information and for a full list of programs, click here.
If you’re a fan of WinSport’s zipline, mountain bike trails or summer bobsleigh, then you’re guaranteed to love our new Free Fall adventure, opening for the first time at WinSport in August.
Free Fall is unlike any bungee-jumping or sky-diving experience you’ve had and we have the only one in Western Canada! Picture yourself standing atop our new tower, only 80-feet between you and the ground. When you fall is up to you!
Step off the eight-storey platform and prepare for 36-feet of free falling before you’re slowed down by the magnetic braking component that gently catches you and lowers you to the ground.
Free Fall combines the “pit in the stomach” feeling of sky-diving with the rope and harness aspect of bungee jumping (minus the uncontrollable bouncing).
Our new thrill attraction is perfect for anyone looking for a new adventure. Add it to the list of other thrilling activities at the park — or make an exclusive trip to come out and give it a try! Free Fall offers one or two drop tickets, allowing you to choose how many times you want to fall!
WinSport’s mountain bike trails are opened this summer with some new runs, obstacles and terrain. As Calgary’s only lift-accessible mountain bike hill, riders can complete a lot of runs in a day, which allows them to familiarize with a course and master timing and technique.
During the past few years we have added black features to blue trails and blue features to green trails which we realized caused some confusion to riders when looking at the maps. As a result, some of the changes this year included making the terrain true to trails skill designation from top to bottom, which was a recommendation from the company who built our trails back in 2007. We also looked at the overall hits and misses of all the trails and updated and changed them to best suit our riders. There have been some massive changes to some of our most popular trails, such as Safari Planet. But we’ve also added more green-level trails to make the hill more accessible to beginner and intermediate riders.
Ian Newcombe, the Manager of Venues and Operations at WinSport, says Safari Planet is one of the most extensively updated trails.
“It was resurfaced top to bottom over a two-week period to make for a smooth and more controllable ride,” says Newcombe. “We also redid the tables to make those areas smoother as well.”
Now the trail rides nicely, is flowy and offers some new line choices. Similarly, to Safari Planet, the Dragon Slayer trail was reconstructed to better suit our riders. Full of banks and bridges, this intermediate trail used to feature older obstacles. We removed them to create a fun, flowy trail for the true intermediate riders.
Our expert trail, Haircut Rabbit, features wood jumps and provides a rush of adrenaline for our more experienced riders.
“We wanted to make the trail more accessible to our intermediate riders,” says Newcombe. “You’ll see construction being done around mid-July and we hope to have it open shortly after that.”
Keep an eye out for the updated trail later in the season.
The Green Tea trail used to be a green trail that transitioned to an intermediate level. But now, it can entirely green or transition to a more difficult trail, depending on rider preference.
“The Green Tea Trail connects with the more challenging Paskapoo Pass, but we have now added a trail at a fork for riders who want to keep riding on a green trail, ” says Newcombe.
Construction also continues for The Strawberry Shortcake trails, where crews are working towards making the transition from intermediate to expert a lot smoother.
“Once open, you can expect trails that give riders a chance to practice a bit before hitting the more difficult ones,” he says.
Our skills park is a major resource for beginner and intermediate riders with logs, wooden A frames, Ogopogos and more exciting features.
“Last year, we took trees that were already cut down and used them as a natural obstacle course,” says Newcombe. “There are a lot of features for all skill levels as well as a lot of options for kids learning to ride.”
Using the resources of the skills park with a touch of creativity is what makes our skills park unique. With its new location between the Acura Tube Park and the ’88 Express, you can guarantee it will be a vital part of the mountain bike school’s daily routine.
For more information, including ticket prices and purchasing, hours of operation and trail maps, click here.
We are nearly through two months of 2017 and unfortunately, many of you have already failed to stick to your New Year’s resolutions.
Since a majority of resolutions are typically fitness-related goals, it’s never too late to start back up or begin a new plan. Whether it’s weight loss, improving cardiovascular fitness or building muscle mass – the most important body part to focus on is the heart, says WinSport’s Athletic Development Specialist, Tara McNeil.
“It’s your body’s engine and it affects everything,” McNeil says. “Improving your heart heatlh/cardiovascular fitness can reduce the stress to your other organs and systems, increases your stamina and energy levels throughout the day, helps with your tolerance to stress overall, and reduces your mortality rate by 25 percent.”
Aside from those benefits, cardiovascular fitness also helps lower your risk of and/or improve your recovery from a laundry list of other health issues including cancer, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart arrhythmias, high blood pressure and cholesterol. It also helps with recovery from all types of stress.
“A healthy cardiovascular system also supports your immune system and reduces the frequency of colds and the flu or speeds up recovery when we do fall ill,” McNeil says.
How to improve heart health
So how do you improve heart health? The simple answer is exercise.
“Unless you are adjusting your training for sport-specific performances, everybody should be doing three to five days of per week of aerobic exercise,” McNeil says. “Biking, rowing, swimming, running and walking briskly are all great ways to exercise your heart.”
Length and intensity
McNeil says you should exercise at a moderate level consistently for 30 minutes or longer, three to five times per week.
“A good way to tell what a moderate pace is to be able to talk in full sentences, but not so much that you could sing,” McNeil explains.
Importance of warm-up and cool down
A warm up is extremely important prior to performing any aerobic exercise.
“During a warmup, hormones are released that allow blood vessels to open more fully to prevent spikes in blood pressure and lower stress on the heart,” McNeil says. “Similarly, cool down for five to 10 minutes to return your blood flow to near normal levels in a gradual fashion, which reduces the chance of any heart-related issues (arrhythmias etc.) post-exercise.”
The Under Armour halfpipe at WinSport is bustling with athletes from Canada, France, New Zealand, Japan, Great Britain and the United States who are training on the famous halfpipe.
World-renowned pipe cutter Frank Wells worked with WinSport’s snowmaking crews for approximately two weeks to complete the pipe just before Christmas.
Among the many athletes training here is Rosalind Groenewoud, a member of Canada’s national halfpipe ski team, who came back home to Calgary from Squamish, B.C., to continue training.
“It’s a pretty intimidating halfpipe but it’s just awesome and is the best in the world,” says Groenewoud. “Frank Wells is such an expert at building these and now he’s taught the people at WinSport how to build it, which is great.”
Groenewoud started out on WinSport’s hill at the age of three after her parents enrolled her in ski lessons. She quickly fell in love with the sport, but had to leave it soon after when her family moved to Ecuador while she was in elementary school. When she was 13-years-old, her family returned to Calgary and immediately enrolled her in freestyle skiing.
“I probably should have started with basic ski lessons, but my parents put me right into freestyle,” Groenewoud says. “I joke that I actually learned to ski on the halfpipe.”
Jumping right into freestyle was arguably a blessing in disguise, as Groenewoud excelled quickly to stardom. After making her Winter X Games debut in 2008, she finished third in both 2010 and 2011 and captured gold at the 2011 FIS World Championships and the 2012 Winter X Games. She then won silver at the 2013 and 2014 Winter X Games. She finished seventh in her Olympic debut at Sochi 2014.
She says coming back to Calgary is special not only because she gets to train on the halfpipe, but because she gets to witness the excitement amongst all the kids on the hill learning to ski.
“It’s kind of nostalgic because I remember being here with all my friends in junior high and high school, so to see their excitement is pretty special,” Groenewoud says. “We’re so fortunate to have (WinSport) for the development of athletes but it’s also a place to have a social connection where you can train and make friends at the same time.”
After training at WinSport, Groenewoud will head to Mammoth, Calif., in the first week of February for the FIS World Cup and then to Bokwang, Korea, for another FIS World Cup.