Tracy Punchard is ready to pass the torch.
The president of the Whitewater Ski Team will end her five-year tenure this spring once the season is done. She’s leaving the team in a much better place than it was when she started.
“We’re really pleased with that because every other ski team in the province and pretty much the country is experiencing declining enrolment, and we just keep growing,” said Punchard, who will hand the reins to successor John Van Der Holt.
The alpine race team, which includes athletes ages five to 18, has experienced significant growth under Punchard. Whitewater didn’t have more than 40 skiers on the team between 2001 to 2008. Enrolment began to improve in 2009 and broke 100 in 2014, according to Punchard.
This year’s team includes 129 athletes, six of whom just returned from the BC Winter Games in Penticton.
Punchard believes a few factors have added up to the team’s enrolment growth.
The blue jackets dotting the slopes, for example, have done their part. Punchard put an emphasis on branding to keep the team visible, a move that appears to have paid off.
“They stand out,” she said. “Everybody knows who the Whitewater Ski Team is and the younger kids see these older kids with the jackets and say, ‘I want to be there, I want to be like that.'”
Punchard, who worked to build the team’s business relationships, helped facilitate a deal between the team and Whitewater Ski Resort to construct a yurt near the resort’s lodge. That’s given her athletes a place to gather, as well as a venue to interact with parents. “They really build that team camaraderie there. It becomes like a social club there,” she said.
Punchard said she’s relieved to be leaving the job. As the team has grown, so has her workload.
“The challenge now that I’ve been working on this last year and I’ll hand over to John will be really I think at an administrative level,” said Punchard. “How to manage such growth and such a large team, streamlining all the administration.”
Punchard, an English instructor at Selkirk College, plans to continue helping out with the team. Her children, Oso and Coda, are skiers in the program and her husband coaches.
“[John’s] got work ahead of him,” she said with a laugh.