Heading for the Big Hills

With some of Canada’s best snowboarding opportunities, Whistler, BC draws in millions of visitors every year.

It certainly attracted local snowboarder Max Melvin-McNutt, who had plans to move there this year after completing high school.

When he mentioned his plans to the coach of one of his summer camps, the 17-year-old unknowingly walked right into his lucky break.

Adam Higgins, coach of the BC Provincial snowboard team, had already worked with McNutt all summer at the Shred Camp in Whistler, Recognizing his potential, Higgins offered him a place on the team.

“Max attended the Canada Games with the Yukon team, made the finals in the halfpipe, a very good feat for a Yukon rider, without much time spent training in a halfpipe,” Higgins says.

“After discussions with his father and Max, it appeared that Max needed to make a change in his location to continue his development.”

After Melvin-McNutt’s performance at the Canada Games and spending time with him last summer, Higgins felt that he would be an ideal candidate for the provincial team.

“Max joined us last week for his first training camp with the BC team in Whistler at the Camp of Champions, and confirmed that he would be an ideal member of our team,” he says.

“He is a hard working, determined athlete, who excels at snowboarding and skateboarding.”?In fact, Melvin-McNutt had just returned from the summer training camp in Whistler when we spoke.

“The training camp was awesome! There were lots of jumps,” he says, “But it also rained a lot, and the camp was on a glacier, so it was pretty slushy.”

In some ways, his skateboarding also helps with his training, says McNutt. “They’re very similar. The feel of riding a skateboard in some ways feels like a snowboard. You can always transfer skills from one sport to another, especially tricks.”

However, skateboarding as summer training just won’t cut it for the BC Provincial Team. Joining such a team, as Melvin-McNutt is finding out, is definitely not all fun and games. As well finishing two classes by correspondence in order to complete high school, he also faces a rigorous training regime.

“I have to go the gym about five times a week, which I’m not used to,” he says. “We’re going to be doing lots of competing and travelling. But I have a really good coach, and the guys I ride with are good too, so I progress a lot faster.”

“Max will be starting his final year of high school in Whitehorse before heading down to Whistler to continue his training with our team,” says Higgins.

“This season Max will be attending a greater number of slopestyle and halfpipe events around Western Canada and the United States. While riding and training in the Whistler area, [we’ll be] taking advantage of all the opportunities available on the mountains and the terrain park.”

When not travelling and competing, Melvin-McNutt will be billeting with a family in Whistler and training at the Whistler Blackcomb ski hill.

He is very much looking forward to the opportunity to experience Whistler and hopes to be part of the BC snowboard team for a while.

“I’ll be [boarding with the team] until I’m finished high school, and then we’ll see where it takes me,” he says.

“A couple of years on the team would be great. They’re easy to get along with and good to ride with. I basically get a free lift ticket anywhere in Canada and my living is subsidized by the government, which is really helpful. Plus, I get to live in Whistler and snowboard a lot.”

Supported by parents, coaches and friends, and looking forward to all the Whistler powder he can shred, life doesn’t get much better for this young Yukon athlete.

Willow Gamberg is a former What’s Up Yukon intern who writes about music and other arts-related topics.

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