Honoured Member Kerrin Lee-Gartner writes 'The Death That Changed My Life'
Article from CBC Sports: The Death That Changed My Life
By Kerrin Lee-Gartner for CBC Sports
What am I doing? Seriously, why am I doing this?
Those were the questions I was consumed with following the tragic death of Austrian Ulrike Maier while racing downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany on Jan. 29, 1994.
I can remember so much of that day as if it was yesterday. It was race day, and how I loved race day! My blood ran just a little hotter, my focus was sharper and my commitment to the thrill of downhill racing was at its peak. The course was steep and icy; right up my alley. I loved racing against the clock, I relished the challenge of being the best I could be when it counted the most.
But that day, that race day, ended in a tragic way. Ulrike, a two-time world champion, raced in Bib 32. Her four-year-old daughter, Melanie, was at the finish cheering for her mama.
Recently, the ski community has been rocked again by the tragic deaths of World Cup downhill racer David Poisson of France and young Max Burkhart of Germany. The loss of two lives within a month of each other, and both on Alberta snow, hits extremely close to home for so many of us.
Racers, coaches, officials, parents, volunteers, sponsors, and fans of ski racing have all voiced love and support, questions and concerns. In times of grief it seems impossible that life goes on.
But as in life, the ski season continues and the racing resumes. Counselors and sports psychologists have been helping the ski community navigate its way forward, and at the same time many of us find ourselves in deep reflection.
Memories bring tears
A literal flood of memories from 1994 have brought me to tears; it’s been nearly 24 years and I can still feel it all. I feel the tension in my gut. The pain in my heart. I feel the confusion brought on by the onslaught of coldness that completely extinguished the passion I had for racing.
What am I doing? Seriously, why am I doing this?
Everyone deals with grief and tragedy in their own way. For me, and for my husband Max, it was crystal clear that I needed to be able to answer those two questions before I even thought of defending my Olympic downhill title in Norway. The two of us packed up and left the World Cup circuit, flew home to my parents to heal and to find the answers.
I wondered how the World Cup circuit could continue in Europe. I was confused how the other favorites for the Lillehammer Winter Olympics could keep racing.
A few things were obvious: I was shaken to my core. Shaken to the point that I wasn’t sure I wanted to race downhill again. Max knew he couldn’t watch me race again, and I was suddenly aware of just what I was risking racing downhill. Max and I had been married nearly five years and I had already won my dream race in the 1992 Olympics. The risks of downhill were no longer just about torn up knees and broken bones; I was ultimately risking the rest of our happily ever after.
We spent hours walking the beach while we problem solved with my dad. We discussed our hearts’ feelings with my mom. We dug deep into the well of pain to pull out the little glimpses of promise that I could answer those questions.
Why I raced downhill before the tragedy was totally clear. I loved it! I loved everything about the challenge and the risk of putting it on the line when it counted the most.
Even as a little girl I loved the feeling of the snow and the wind in my face. I loved the power, speed and adrenaline that came with the speeds of downhill racing; and I was a dreamer, a big-time dreamer.
In the muddy state of my mind, a sliver of clarity exposed the grief I felt in losing my life-long passion and love for ski racing.
The fear of risking the future with Max had completely diminished all desire to race downhill. It was a vicious circle. I was back to asking myself, “Seriously, why am I doing this?”
Finding the answers
Perhaps the fact that the Olympics were just a couple weeks away helped pull me back to the sport. Or maybe the responsibility I felt to my sponsors helped encourage me to find a way to get back on my downhill skis. But ultimately, with the help of my family, Max and I finally realized that I needed to find a way to love the sport again before I walked away from it.
The what and the whys were finally answered. I was committed to finding a way to love racing again. It wasn’t about defending my Olympic title, it was about not wanting to walk away from skiing like that.
No, I didn’t win a medal at those Games. I did race the downhill but without the same passion as before. And no, Max couldn’t stand on the downhill course to coach me again; his heart just wasn’t able to do it. But a couple weeks later I had success. In Whistler B.C., in the final World Cup downhill of my career, I felt the magic again; I am so thankful to have retired remembering how much I loved the sport.
With the two recent tragedies, I have been asked so many questions. Why did I race downhill? Why did I let my kids ski race? What are parents thinking? Do they understand how dangerous it is? Can’t they make it any safer? How do the racers get past this?
Some answers are easier than others. Simply put, I raced downhill because I loved it — I LOVED it. Our daughters raced because they asked if they could join the Fernie Alpine Ski Team to be with their friends, and they both loved everything about being a FAST racer.
As for what were we thinking as parents? Well, I suppose we were doing the best we could to support our girls in every way we knew in a sport they loved. Stephanie races for Montana State University and Riana coaches for FAST; they both still love a blue bird powder day, feeling the wind in their faces and the camaraderie of their teams.
The more difficult questions will take some dedication and time. Can they make it any safer? Yes, I believe they can. Lessons can always be learned. The priority should always be to make the sport as safe as possible, minimize risk at every level. Without pointing fingers, leaders in the sport need to move together in the direction of safety before results.
Time and experience have always been great teachers and in this, it’s no different. The racers and the ski community will get through this time of grief and tragedy by asking: What am I doing? Seriously, why am I doing this?
JANUARY 27 2018 IS CIBC NATIONAL SKI & SNOWBOARD DAY
Article from Hit The Slopes: National Ski & Snowboard Day
Alpine Canada, Canada Snowboard and Freestyle Canada are pleased to announce the forth-annual CIBC National Ski & Snowboard Day will be held on Saturday January 27th, 2018. CIBC National Ski & Snowboard Day unites Canadians from coast-to-coast, celebrating the power of winter snow sports, its accessibility to Canadians and our majestic playgrounds.
From Yukon Territory to Newfoundland and Labrador, 18 ski and snowboard resorts across the country have partnered with these best-in-class National Sport Federations to offer discounted lift tickets and onsite guest experiences, encouraging Canadians to get outside and explore the beauty of skiing and snowboarding, which are deeply rooted Canadian sports. To view all resort offers, visit hittheslopes.ca.
“Alpine Canada is thrilled to expand our annual CIBC National Ski & Snowboard Day campaign in partnership with Canada Snowboard and Freestyle Canada,” said Alpine Canada’s Vice President, Partnerships, Linsey Ferguson. “The inclusion of alpine, snowboard and freestyle skiing, truly encapsulates the full spectrum of quintessential Canadian snow sports. We look forward to welcoming you on January 27th to one of our great Canadian resort partners and thank you for your support of our Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls”.
2018 will see Canada’s best winter athletes take to the world stage in PyeongChang, South Korea, battling for podium success as they represent our great nation. Ski and snowboard enthusiasts can support these world-class athletes by participating in CIBC National Ski & Snowboard Day on January 27th, along with the Canadian Ski Council, the Canadian Olympic Committee and resorts coast-to-coast-to-coast.
“We invite all Canadians to join us once again on CIBC National Ski & Snowboard Day to enjoy our great outdoors in support of our Canadian alpine and para-alpine team.” says Monique Giroux, Vice President, Sponsorships, Communications & Public Affairs, CIBC. “With PyeongChang 2018 taking place this winter, there’s no better time to experience this quintessential Canadian pastime and rally behind our incredible alpine and para-alpine athletes as they get ready to represent Canada on the world stage.”
CIBC National Ski & Snowboard Day benefits Canadian ski and snowboard athletes, with participating resorts across Canada donating proceeds from the days online ticket sales back in support of these athletes’ World Cup, World Championship, Olympic and Paralympic journeys.
"Winter and skiing are synonymous with Canada and CIBC National Ski & Snowboard Day is a way to bring Canadians to snow resorts across the country so they may experience winter as it is meant to be," says Bruce Robinson, CEO of Freestyle Canada. "The partnership between freestyle skiing, snowboard, and alpine skiing demonstrates our collective desire to grow winter sport through snow sports participation. Our organizations' partnership with the Canadian Ski Council and the Canadian Olympic Committee will showcase the pride our athletes have at representing Canada and tie back their athletic success with where it all began ... the local ski and snowboard hill. Join Canada's snow sports athletes as they celebrate CIBC National Ski and Snowboard Day on January 27th."
"We’re extremely proud to work with our resort partners and our friends at Alpine Canada & Freestyle Canada to celebrate National Ski & Snowboard day. Winter and snowsports are an important part of our collective Canadian identity, and we’re excited to share our passion for snowboarding with millions of Canadians from coast to coast”, said Patrick Jarvis, Executive Director of Canada Snowboard. “We invite all Canadians to head out to their favourite ski resort on January 27th to celebrate the joy of snowboarding and skiing, and to show their support for our world class athletes before they depart for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic & Paralympic Games.”
Whether you’re a seasoned mountain explorer or completely new to the sport, CIBC National Ski & Snowboard Day is the perfect family-friendly reason to get outside this winter. With an estimated 2.5 million skiers and snowboarders in Canada and approximately 275 ski areas to explore, it’s no wonder hitting the slopes is one of Canada’s favourite ways to brave our winters.
“Canada is a winter country and Canadians were not meant to hibernate,” says Paul Pinchbeck, CEO of the Canadian Ski Council. “Skiing and snowboarding are the greatest family oriented winter sports and a key opportunity to get outside and be active in winter. Our winter sport athletes are heroes who can be looked up to and can help inspire new people to take up snow sports. This new partnership between Canada’s resorts, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the alpine, freestyle and snowboard teams is an opportunity to engage the nation in a celebration of winter sport. We look forward to welcoming skiers and snowboarders, whether existing or new, to Canada’s resorts on National Ski and Snowboard Day.”
- Marble Mountain, Newfoundland
- Stoneham, Quebec
- Mont-Tremblant, Quebec
- Mont Farlagne, New Brunswick
- Blue Mountain, Ontario
- Horseshoe Valley, Ontario
- Holiday Mountain, Manitoba
- Castle Mountain, Alberta
- Nakiska, Alberta
- Misery Mountain, Alberta
- Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
- Grouse Mountain, British Columbia
- Red Mountain, British Columbia
- Tabor Mountain, British Columbia
- Panorama, British Columbia
- Silver Star, British Columbia
- Mount Washington, British Columbia
- Mount Sima, Yukon
Looking forward to another amazing year with RBC Foundation
Thank you RBC Foundation for your continued support of the Beyond the Classroom education programs.
Sport for Life Canadian Summit announces Keynote Speaker: ASHFM Honoured Member Lanny McDonald
Article from Sport For Life: NHL legend Lanny McDonald to deliver keynote speech on inclusion at the 2018 Sport for Life Canadian Summit
The Sport for Life Society is pleased to announce that Lanny McDonald will deliver a keynote address on inclusion in sport and physical activity at the 2018 Sport for Life Canadian Summit, which takes place in Gatineau, Quebec from January 23-25.
Although Lanny McDonald is best known for his outstanding 16-year NHL career -culminating in leading the Calgary Flames to a Stanley Cup in 1989 - the hockey legend is also a dedicated community leader and philanthropist. During and following his hockey career, McDonald has worked diligently with many organizations that promote inclusion in sport and physical activity.
This year's Summit will focus on collaboration within the sport system and across the recreation, education and health sectors in order to give participants the best possible chance to succeed. As an ambassador for Canadian Tire Jumpstart, a charity dedicated to making it possible for all kids to participate, McDonald supports the organization's goal of providing greater access to sport and play to Canadian children with disabilities. This work exemplifies the theme of the 2018 Summit, Working Together.
McDonald has been a champion for inclusion since his rookie season in the NHL. In 1974 he represented the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Special Olympics Summer Games, and since that time has been involved with the Special Olympics' awareness and fundraising campaigns. He was named honorary coach of the Special Olympics Summer Games in Calgary in 1986. In addition, McDonald has committed his time and influence to a number of other charities. This, paired with his successful NHL career, make McDonald an inspiration both on and off the ice.
ASHFM Volunteer Christmas Party
This year, our Volunteer Christmas Party took a twist! Volunteers, Staff, and Board took part in a Murder Mystery, including intrigue, vendettas, and of course, a delicious meal! We hope you enjoyed your evening as much as we did.
We put on this annual party to say thank you to our volunteers for everything they do to make the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum run smoothly! Volunteers are an integral part of our team and we really couldn't accomplish the things we do without your hard work and dedication.
If you're interested in becoming a Volunteer at the ASHFM, please contact Megan at