NSA was founded in 1986 by a committed group of inspirational leaders who established the Academy, filling a void and ensuring a home to offer the integration of alpine ski racing and academic excellence for passionate alpine ski racers. Since NSA’s inception the Academy has been guided and directed by a dedicated volunteer Board who drive the strategic direction and goals, ensure the financial health and support the day-to-day operations of the Academy.
As told by Jurg Gfeller:
In the spring of 1985, after the Sarajevo Winter Olympics, when I returned to Collingwood, Henry Haiduk, Dan Hadley, and I met to discuss the possibility of a ski academy. We made a commitment to pursue the concept of the first ski academy in Canada and to bring the project to the next level. The next level was to put our vision on paper and start building the foundation.
We needed additional expertise and input. Gerry Stone, a ski enthusiast whom I met while coaching at a master’s camp, joined our committee. The Gougeons, a well-known skiing family, and their daughter Angela, who at the time was competing on The National Ski Team, advised me to contact a gentleman by the name of Bev Collombin in Toronto. Bev had his own investment company and at the time was a board member of the well-known Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont USA, where his son, Andrew, was a student. Bev had a Swiss background and one of his cousins was the famous Swiss downhiller, Roland Collombin. Henry, Dan, Gerry, and I were invited to go to talk to Bev and his wife Ann at their home. He asked us very specific questions; like “what is your background” and “why do you want to be involved in this project?” At the end of the evening and after a few glasses of ”Fendant”, a white Swiss wine, Bev agreed to help us and joined the group.
We formed and registered a corporation under the name of National Ski Academy and applied for a charitable non-profit organization scarus. We started looking for a location and found 200 Oak Street was for sale. It was a historic home in Collingwood, with 15 bedrooms, many large common rooms and a gymnasium attached to it; ideal for an Academy.
We talked about our vision with a skiing, windsurfing friend, Paul D. Phelan, and other potential supporters who could help to make the project a reality. During an open house at 200 Oak Street, organized by the committee and the realtor, Paul agreed to purchase the house for the Academy, and to join our committee. At that time, National Ski Academy, was born.
In the fall of 1986, came the first official fundraiser at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. It was organized by a well-known ski legend, Jack Creed, who believed in us and joined our committee. Many National Ski Team members attended and supported the event. The Master of Ceremonies was Brian Williams from CBC, and Howard Cosell was our Guest Speaker. It was a gala affair and a huge success.
Paul Hughes, a ski friend of mine, who is also a successful architect, helped us put the plan together for the renovations. Patrick Coulter and Roy Johnson were fundamental in the renovation project. The Academy was able to get some additional financial support from the R.H. Webster Foundation, Frank Stronach – Magna International Inc., and Denny Hamilton – Peacock Foundation and many other great supporters who believed in the Academy concept.
We printed the first official brochure of the Academy with the help of Serge Trajkovich. Now we seriously looked at opening the door in the fall of 1987. We started to talk to interested students and athletes and put together the best possible professional staff to operate the Academy.