About Us

We Are Unique

National Ski Academy is Canada’s only offering where students are able to balance a comprehensive high school education at the same time as managing a high-performance alpine ski training program and competitive season. 

Established in 1986, our mission is to provide an environment for student athletes to reach their full athletic, academic, and personal potential while pursuing alpine ski racing excellence.    

Not only are we an Ontario Ministry of Education inspected and credit-granting (Ontario Secondary School Diploma) independent school, we are also a recognized ski club in the Southern Ontario Division of the Provincial Sport Organization Alpine Ontario Alpin.

We Offer:

  • Outstanding learning and training environments,
  • An integrated and holistic approach for balancing skiing and school, catering to each athlete’s needs
  • Experienced teachers who deliver an enriched, robust, and leading education that prepares our student athletes to thrive in the exciting and ever-changing world that awaits, well past the race-course finish line
  • Experienced coaches to support each athlete’s passion, funnel their focus, build upon their determination, and enhance their self-confidence, ensuring they are Racer Ready for Life
  • A one-of-a-kind experience that prepares our student athletes to attend the most demanding universities and colleges in Canada, US and around the world with many skiing at a NCAA, provincial or national team level

NSA is a board run,
registered not-for-profit charitable organization.

Head of School Message

Our Philosophy

National Ski Academy’s mission is to provide an environment for talented student athletes to maximize their individual potential through the pursuit of alpine ski racing excellence, academic achievement and personal growth. Delivering on our vision is only possible through a holistic approach that caters to all the needs of young student athletes.

Our holistic approach builds outward from individual student needs to address three core development areas: Academics, Fitness and Ski Racing.

Our home in Collingwood provides the full breadth of facilities and professional coaches, teachers and trainers needed for our young student athletes to prosper. NSA is the only high school credit-granting ski academy in Canada that provides this holistic program for student athletes. It is our intention that the Academy’s learning environment and curriculum will foster a positive self-image and help our student athletes to become productive, responsible, and caring citizens.

Tornavene –
Our Campus & Home

Tornavene is our 125-year-old home and campus at 200 Oak Street in Collingwood, Ontario and the heart of the Academy and provides the facilities necessary for our students to learn, work-out, tune and live. The 12,000+ square foot renovated heritage designated mansion offers modern amenities including:

  • Recently renovated bedrooms for up to 22 student athletes to board
  • Spacious and bright classrooms and study hall
  • A full-size gymnasium and fully quipped weight room with adjacent change rooms
  • A new tuning room and ski storage
  • Inviting common areas
  • A commercial kitchen with a full-time chef
  • Social dining hall, and laundry facilities

Founding Members

Our Mission is to provide an environment for talented student/athletes, to maximize individual potential through the pursuit of alpine ski racing excellence, academic achievement and personal growth.

John Bennett
Bev Collombin
Jack Creed
Jurg Gfeller
Dan Hadley
Henry Haiduk
Paul D. Phelan
Gerry Stone

Board of Directors

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.

Brigitte Kopas, Chair 

Jeff Sziklai, Past Chair and Finance Chair 

Nancy Esson, Past Chair and Secretary 

Mackenzie Irwin, Secretary and Governance 

Cee Cee Robertson, Fundraising Chair 

James Leone, Governance and Fundraising 

Bennett Carter, Recruitment and Corporate Donors 

Greg Jedrzejewski, Corporate Donors and Communication 

Tobin Walsh, Head of School 

Jeff Jones, Program Director 

William Vancise

William teaches our vibrant visual arts and photography programming for all grades, as well as our intermediate Canadian Geography course.  He has worked with the student athletes at the Academy for many years. He holds his Honours Specialist in Visual Arts and History.  He is currently the Arts Department Chair at Collingwood Collegiate.  He devotes his time to instructional practice, community, charity, agriculture and Mother Nature.  Words of wisdom: “Creativity takes commitment and a lot of found material.” Motto: Art for Art’s Sake.

Janet Wilkinson

Janet has been delivering an exceptional Grade 12 English program to our senior student athletes since September 2016. Before retiring in 2016 from her career as a secondary school teacher, she designed and delivered essential English literacy courses; taught an extensive array of programs, ranging from Grade 9 LDCC English to Grade 12 University preparation; and wrote English curriculum at the local and provincial levels. Since retirement, she has been busy tutoring student athletes, skiing, hiking the Bruce Trail, and volunteering in the community. Janet is a playwright and a member of the board of directors for local Gaslight Community Theatre Production.  Her short story “Breathless” placed second in the Toronto Star’s short story contest in 2018.  Janet lives in Collingwood with her husband and their German Shepherd, Tucker.

Tomas Rivas
Fis Coach, Men

Tomás “Tomi” Rivas is an alpine ski coach with 12 years of experience coaching alpine and a strong background in sports psychology and kinesiology. Tomás is Chilean and has experience coaching at a variety of levels from FIS to U10 in the US, Chile, and Argentina. Prior to NSA, he was  the U14 Head Coach with Big Sky Ski Education Foundation in Montana. In addition to his experience coaching alpine, he has a Bachelors in Kinesiology which is complemented by his master’s studies in Sports Psychology. This education gives him the tools to work as part of an integrated support team to help athletes reach both alpine and mental performance goals. “I am really looking forward to returning to NSA’s coaching staff and am excited to continue work with the FIS athletes. I am an avid supporter of academic excellence because I believe it is a key component of athlete development and I hope to support NSA athletes in their high-performance pursuits as well as their academic ones.”

Will Gyles
Fis Coach, Men

Will joins NSA as a Men’s FIS Coach. He is an ACA Performance Level coach and has a long history of coaching in Ontario. Will is a product of our provincial system, racing through the ranks at the club, regional, and provincial levels. He has led athletes and teams at Georgian Peaks, Devils Glen, and the SOD Team. Will’s experience includes working with numerous athletes from across Ontario, some of whom have gone on to ski at the Provincial, NCAA, and National Team levels. Will has many years of work experience in the ski industry and brings specific skills related to boot-fitting and race ski preparation. Will is disciplined, organized, and hard-working. He has a high ski racing IQ and his knowledge of the sport development pathway will aid in supporting our athletes. Will is familiar with the independent school system as he is a graduate of Crescent School (’02). Will spent his postsecondary years earning an Honours Degree in History at Queen’s University (’07).

Daniel Gagnon
Fis Coach, Women

Daniel (“Hootie”) Gagnon joins NSA as a Women’s FIS Coach. We are excited to be welcoming this NSA alumni (’14) and NSA Blake Award winner back to the family. He is an ACA Development Level Coach, working towards his Performance Level certification, and has spent 5 years coaching U16 OCUP at the Toronto Ski Club. He was TSC ‘Coach of the Year’ this past season and instrumental in the planning and logistics for both out-of-province/country training projects. Jeff Jones, our Program Director, adds “Daniel will bring energy and enthusiasm to our school community. His understanding of the athlete’s journey (high school ski academy life and post-graduate experience in the US) will be an asset”.

Fabrizio Cavallari
Fis Coach, Women

Fabrizio Cavallari joins NSA as a Women’s FIS Coach. He is an Italian Certified Level III Tech. and Speed Coach and brings with him a wealth of experience from the international ski community. As founder and Head Coach of Skitime International, based in Hintertux, Austria, Fabrizio has coached athletes of all levels. Over the last 30 years, his focus has been on FIS athletes; training in Italy, Austria, and Argentina; and competing in Italy and other venues in Europe and North America. He is fluent in English, Italian, German and Spanish. Fabrizio’s extensive experience includes coaching speed disciplines (SG, Downhill) and he has graduated athletes from Europa Cup to the Italian National Team. Jeff Jones, our Program Director, adds “Fabrizio has an impressive level of experience and work ethic, a strong belief in developing athletes, and a great sense of humour”.

Zak Bensdira

This is Chef Zak’s third year keeping NSA’s community well fed. Chef Zak has trained at Le Cordon Bleu and loves introducing our students and staff as well as lucky guests to new cuisine, be it Thai, Italian or French. He has a love for patisseries so there are lots of delicious things on the dessert menu as well. Zak travels on many of the training camps with the student athletes to ensure everyone eats properly and does meal prep and planning with the coaches for away race series throughout the year. Zak lives in Collingwood with his wife and daughter. He hopes this year to be able to once again host the fun and delicious Friday Night Family Dinners!

Robert Pierce
Maintenance and Facilities Manager

This is Robert’s fourth year taking care of NSA’s heritage home, Tornavene which was built in 1893. He is responsible for day to day maintenance at the school as well as planning and carrying out the special heritage grant projects to keep our building looking great for its 126 years. Over the past 18 months, Robert has been, and continues to be, instrumental in making sure everyone stays healthy and safe by implementing our COVID-19 procedures and protocols. This summer he has overseen the complete renovation of the kitchen as well as numerous other projects. Robert is retired Canadian military and lives in Collingwood with his wife and three children.

Alex Procenko

This is Alex’s fifth year at NSA. She works with both junior and senior students exploring science with inquiry based experiments ranging from meteorite impacts to lung capacity to impacts on ecosystems. She has a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Genetics and a minor in Psychology from UWO and completed UWO’s Bachelor of Education program as part of the first ever STEM cohort. She grew up in Wasaga Beach and now lives in Stayner with her husband. And whether it is fetal pig dissection, coding for robotics or taking her classes outside to explore the spectacular Georgian Bay Biosphere right outside our door, Miss P. brings the exciting world of science into the classroom.

Mary Kawamura

This is Mary’s second year teaching senior Physics at NSA and will be adding secondary science and math to her teaching schedule this year. Mary has taught Grade 7 – 12 Math and Science for 18+ years in both independent and public systems across southern Ontario as well as Nunavut, and abroad in Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. She enjoys travelling, immersing herself in new cultures and languages, and hopes to continue travelling soon, but is happy to be back home and spending as much time as possible with her five nieces and nephews. Mary also enjoys hiking the local trails and experiencing the abundance of nature that the Collingwood area offers.

Heather grant
Director of Guidance & Counselling

Heather Grant has over 25 years of experience as a guidance counsellor, teacher, house director and coach at Appleby College, Neuchâtel Junior College (Switzerland) and most recently, Havergal College. In 2018, Heather set up her own private educational consulting practice, Clearview Educational Consulting. Working with students and their families from all over North America, Heather provides expertise and support in a variety of areas including academic and personal counselling, elite athletics and Canadian, U.S. and International post-secondary applications.

With an M.Ed in Educational and Counselling Psychology and an M.A. in Sport Sociology, Heather has devoted her career to providing essential support to students throughout high school and beyond with a primary focus on supporting well-being in all aspects of their lives. Heather loves the outdoors and in the winter months can be found trying to keep up with her husband and kids on the hills at Devil’s Glen.

Carol Tolles
Finance Manager

This is Carol’s fifth year at NSA. She brings over 20 years of bookkeeping experience with charitable organizations and prior to joining NSA worked with the United Way in Guelph. Carol is an avid skier and worked as an instructor for many years. She divides her time between Collingwood and an island in Georgian Bay where her husband manages a marina. Carol’s dog, Gypsy is the official NSA office greeter.

Jeff Jones
Program Director, U16 Head Coach

Jeff Jones brings with him an immense depth of expertise including local and international coaching experience from U10’s at the club level, all the way through the development pipeline to elite U21 athletes at the Continental Cup level. He has been an Interim GM, Program Manager and Head Coach. He has sports psychology acumen and physical training discipline. Jeff is a licensed CSC level 4 Program Director, CSC EL, DL and PL Course Facilitator, Level 4 NCCP coach, Level 4 CSIA instructor and most recently completed his training as a FIS TD.

“I am beyond excited to be selected for this position at NSA,” shares Jeff. “I feel as though I have spent my coaching career building towards this moment and this opportunity. I intend to carry on NSA’s legacy that began in 1986 with founder Jurg Gfeller. I look forward to collaborating with all NSA’s staff to honour our past, deliver great programs now and prepare NSA for the future.

Tobin Walsh
Head of School

Tobin Walsh took on the role of Head of School in 2017-18. Prior to taking on the leadership role at NSA, she had a 15 year career in teaching and educational leadership with the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). She was a coordinator for the Specialist High Skills Major Programs in the Pathways Department at the TCDSB Catholic Education Centre. She has extensive teaching and leadership experience in the areas of Guidance, Co-operative Education, Geography, Career Studies and Science. Over her career, Tobin has focused on and excelled at building relationships among stakeholders, developing partnerships, building community and the creation of engaging student learning opportunities to enhance student success. Tobin has been involved in the ski industry for close to 30 years, and along with her husband Paul, are members of Alpine Ski Club’s race crew. Their son Jasper is a budding U8 racer.

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