Alpine Snow Sports Program 2016

AIASF Snow Camp with Narooma High School Students
Sponsored by Burton & Chill Foundation – 14 to16 September, 2016

On Wednesday the 14th September, 2016, Narooma High School students and teachers joined other indigenous children from Canberra and AIASF, Burton/Chill Foundation and Action Learning Initiatives staff at Friday Flat Thredbo. After a quick introduction, the group enjoyed a hot lunch at the Friday Flat Bistro before getting kitted out with Burton Snowboards and gear at the ski hire next door. The group then proceeded to the ALI Lesson area for a two hour lesson with Thredbo Instructors, learning how to push their boards along and ride the “Easy – Does it” chairlift in the beginners area.


We were indeed fortunate to be joined by NITV reporter Rachael Hocking and cameraman David Long, who had joined the students in Narooma and spoke with them prior to their journey and followed the group to Thredbo to document the wonder of them seeing snow for the first time and the students enjoying the opportunity to learn a new sport and experience the pristine Alpine Region of the Kosciusko National Park.


National Indigenous TV broadcast this item about our 2016 Snowboarding program.

We thank NITV for the opportunity to inform the viewing public of the work the AIASF is doing for urban, remote and rural Aboriginal children through eligibility to our snow camp programs offered to students as a reward for good school attendance and behaviour. More information on the story can be found here.


NITV and AIASF were generously kitted out with all our snow gear by Harro’s Snow Sports – Crackenback whose industry knowledge and help since our inception has been paramount to the success of our programs.


We also had the lucky experience of running into the 60 remote area children from Wongutha Christian Aboriginal Parent-Directed Boarding School in Western Australia, who were enjoying their first trip to the Eastern States in 17 years. These youth came from the Kimberly’s, Derby and remote areas of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. It was a magical experience to have the 60 WA students and Teachers together with the 20 Narooma High School students and support teachers all enjoying the experience together for the first time.

The group had last runs at 4.30pm before returning to Bungarra Alpine Centre having made arrangements for the Wongutha CAPS Teachers and Students to meet up after dinner with the Narooma High School mob, allowing them to meet, play pool or ping pong whilst the teachers got to yarn up about the wonderful experiences the children were having.


Thursday morning the group awoke early with anticipation of a full day on the snow. It had been snowing throughout the night and the students experienced snow falling quite heavily.


As we progressed up the mountain it became a winter wonderland with snow draped through the trees, covering the road, providing a great new base for the students to learn on.


The snowplough clearing the road was an added attraction to the drive up the mountain to Thredbo Resort. Lessons began at 10.30 with the group rapidly honing the skills of snowboarding before a hot lunch in the bistro where we were able to watch the snow tumbling down outside making for a true alpine experience.

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With lunch over, many of the students were keen to ride the Gun barrel Chairlift to Merritt’s with the Burton instructors for a few longer and steeper runs.

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Friday morning began early with another nourishing breakfast in the dining hall, the group packed and departed for their last day on the mountain. The group met at 9.30am with Burton/Chill staff for free riding with many wanting to progress to Merritt’s now confident and yearning to try steeper and longer slopes, excited at their new found enjoyment of snowboarding. At 10.30am the group had a final lesson with the Thredbo instructors before joining with ALI, Burton/Chill and AIASF staff back at Friday Flat Bistro for lunch after which a they formed into small groups of 4 to challenge different areas of the mountain.

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The AIASF was very lucky to have well known Thredbo resident Butch Young, a retired ski instructor with over 40 years of Thredbo ski terrain experience, join our group as a mentor and volunteer instructor for a few runs on the mountain. Butch Young is the father of seasoned Archibald Portraiture Prize finalist Zoe Young who is generously providing fundraising opportunities with proceeds from a limited edition print going towards our AIASF snow camps for 2017. Thank Zoe and Butch, we are very lucky to have you on board.


It is with much pride that the AIASF can announce that some of the group became so confident of their new found ability that they were prepared to try the “High Noon” run from Merritt’s. This is an absolute amazing result for students who had not even seen snow some 2 days earlier.


You could see the pride on their faces and hear the excitement in their voices as they relayed stories of how they “ripped” and “planted” on different runs, with laughter filling the lunch area. It was joyful to overhear the snow lingo adopted so quickly be this new bunch of snowboarding addicts….


A very big thank you to Ash McCann and Lucas McGrath from Burton Australia together with Angela Nolan – Chill Foundation for their involvement and generous sponsorship of this snow camp for Narooma High School students. The dedication of the Ash, Lucas and the Thredbo Instructors was apparent with the quick progression and enjoyment of snowboarding by the students.


The group returned their gear at 1pm and headed down the mountain for the long journey home, bringing another successful AIASF snow camp to an end.


The AIASF would like to thank our Sponsors for making all of this possible, without your input we would not be able to do what we do:

Burton Australia

Chill Foundation

Thredbo Resort and Staff

Bungarra Alpine Centre and Action Learning Initiatives

Harro’s Snowsports – Crackenback

National Parks & Wildlife Service

Zoe Young and her father Butch Young

Kicker ‘Shredder’ Snowboard Prize for Sydney

A super big thank you to Jill Owen of Kicker Snowboards who generously donated  snowboards to be given away by AIASF at both the Melbourne and Sydney Snow Travel Expo events.

The AIASF attended the Snow Travel Expo in Sydney on Sunday 29 May, 2016. It was wonderful to meet and inform the Sydney ski show attendees and industry people about the great work that the AIASF has achieved with our Snow Camps for Disadvantage Aboriginal youth from Urban, Rural and Remote Australia.  The Winner of the Sydney Snowboard was Michelle Pernice and her husband Brett collected it on her behalf.


We would like to thank all of Australia for your generous support and gold coin donation at both Melbourne and Sydney. AIASF staff are all volunteers and we do not receive government funds, so you generosity alone is what makes this possible. Thank you for all the good will of both the Sydney and Melbourne snow enthusiasts.

Snow Travel Expo in Melbourne


AIASF presented at the Snow Travel Expo in Melbourne today.

Kicker Snowboards donated an Australian made “Shredder” for the AIASF stall at the Snow Travel Expo in Melbourne to go to a lucky attendee.

Mikayla George, Australia’s first Indigenous winter sports athlete who has been accepted for the Victorian Institute of Sport for the Aerial Development Squad, drew the prize on the main stage.  The excited winner of the Kicker “Shredder” was Sara Field.  Congratulations to Sara.

The AIASF would like to thank the Snow Travel Expo and the team for allowing us this wonderful opportunity of being part of the Expo for 2016.  A great big thank you to the Snow Travel Expo staff and exhibitors, we couldn’t have felt more welcome.  THANK-YOU!

We will be at the Sydney Expo next Sunday, 29 May, 2016. We look forward to seeing you there, where another lucky participant will win a Kicker snowboard!

Also, don’t forget our launch at the National Press Club luncheon on 2 June. Bookings can be made here. We look forward to meeting everyone there!


Launch at the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra on the Thursday 2nd June, 2016

The Australian Indigenous Alpine Sport Foundation is delighted to announce the Launch of our Foundation and our “Cool Walkings” program at the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra at a luncheon event on Thursday 2nd June, 2016.   Bookings can be made at

The AIASF will be announcing the success of our inaugural snow camp program for disadvantaged Aboriginal youth from urban, regional and remote Australia.  We are also celebrating the success and achievements of Australia’s first Indigenous Winter Athlete, Mikayla George, who will be the “Guest of Honour” at the Launch.  This event will be hosted by local media identity Tim Shaw with presentations by prominent Aboriginal figures Dr Colin Dillon AM APM, Marcia Ella-Duncan AM, and Angel John Gallard as well as our Chair Ken Randall AM, and attended by Politicians, Corporate Australia and the Australian Ski Industry.

We will be also be launching a fundraising online Auction, and a crowd funding website which will be promoted via our “Cool Walkings” program to support Mikayla with her Olympic dream. 

The AIASF ran our first indigenous youth camp last year and are preparing for our next set of camps to run in 2016.  The camps are fully funded through donations and allow disadvantaged Indigenous youth the opportunity to travel to the snow (Thredbo, NSW) and engage in ski/snowboard training, team building and mentoring.  The program is an engagement program aimed at addressing a whole range of inequity issues faced by Aboriginal Australians such as; mental health, school disengagement, health, education, workplace pathways, access, etc.  The aim is to address these issues whilst continuing to build student engagement with schools and community, mentors, teachers, liaison offers, peers and coaches.

All AIASF sponsors and supporters will be acknowledged at both the event and in the media promotion of our Launch.  The Australian Indigenous Alpine Sport Foundation has full deductible gift recipient status from the Australian Tax Office and all donations over $2.00 are tax deductible.

Should you not be in a position to attend our launch please follow our crowd funding and our online Auction or make a donation now through our ‘Donate’ button at the top of this page.  Keep an eye on our Events page for further details.

Aerial skier Mikayla George aims to be Australia’s first indigenous winter Olympian

The future looks bright for Mikayla George. Picture: Alex Coppel


A LITTLE less than a year ago, Melbourne teenager Mikayla George stood by an open fire and quietly sang a song about her ancestors.

Covered in charcoal and ochre and wrapped in a possum skin skirt, it was a contemporary coming-of-age ceremony for 20 young Wurundjeri women who might otherwise have been occupied by smartphones, social media or typical teenager chatter.

But on this particular Saturday, at a bush camp in South Morang, the sound of the wind through towering eucalypts was the only noise from the outside world.

It was an atmosphere of contemplation, security and quiet expectation among grandmothers, mothers and daughters — proud indigenous women of the Kulin Nation — the first secret meeting of its kind in a century.

By the end of this poignant weekend, each left with a greater understanding of how Aboriginal women had a responsibility to look after one another and while they may be separate, they will never really be separated.

It might have sat front of mind for Mikayla in the year that followed. In December, the teenager would swap the familiar Australian settings and the comforts of her home in Narre Warren for the icy foreign landscape of Utah, in the US.

Indigenous athlete Mikayla George. Picture: Alex Coppel


Half a world away, the 16-year-old was more determined than ever to stand tall as a young Aboriginal. Acting on an invitation from the Australian Institute of Sport, Mikayla was among six young Aussies selected for the gruelling three-month training program for aerial skiers. She is now on track to become the first indigenous Australian to compete at the Winter Olympics as she sets her sights on 2022.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity for me and to represent my culture would be an absolute honour. Thinking about that possibility motivates me to try harder and push myself to the limits,’’ Mikayla says.Enrolled in gymnastics as a two-year-old, Mikayla’s parents Ronnie and Lynette saw their daughter’s potential early. She would climb the couch, hang off doors or contort her body on the lounge room floor.‘‘I absolutely loved the sport, it was my whole life,’’ Mikayla says.

“I didn’t know anything else but gymnastics.’’

By the age of 10 she was training 16 hours a week, mornings and afternoons as coaches noted her advancing skill. Her parents dedicated themselves to getting her to training. She would sometimes miss school or social activities just so she could continue to better herself.

By the end of grade 5, Mikayla was signed up at the Women’s High Performance Centre of Excellence, where her training regimen was doubled.

Staff couldn’t help but notice the striking young gymnast who had emerged from Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs. Suddenly there was talk of Olympic contention, perhaps a berth in Rio.

But it was short-lived. A shoulder injury robbed her of the chance to display her talents on the world stage. It was the first harsh lesson in reality for Mikayla, who was told she should concentrate on domestic competitions.

Bitterly disappointed, her mother took her aside and encouraged her to make the best of the situation. By 2014 she had helped the Victorian squad take gold and came sixth overall at the Australian championships.

Mikayla George has switched from gymnastics to aerial skiing.
Picture: Alex Coppel


It was only after she conquered the Victorian Championships, taking first place on the vault and sixth overall, that it was discovered she had actually fractured her T7-8 vertebrae during competition. Suddenly the young star couldn’t even carry her school bag, such was the pain. She spent six long weeks in a back brace before conceding she would have to forsake here gymnastics dream.

Mikayla was forced into retirement, aged only 14.

“She felt like she was quitting,’’ her mother, Lynette, says. “She gave it a lot of thought but came to the realisation it might be too difficult to come back. It was a really difficult decision for her.’’

But as it turns out, she made the right one.

Less than four months later she would put her natural tumbling skills to the test on a trampoline. She found a new wave of enthusiasm with every whip, layout and double somersault.

Her new coach couldn’t believe how natural she looked on a “tramp”. By May last year, only eight months after breaking her back, she took part in the Australian Championships and won her category. She remains Australia’s U17 tumbling champion.

It was the kind of comeback story that did the rounds on social media and was quietly celebrated by her close-knit family including her younger sister and brother.

Then a letter arrived. Mikayla was invited to try out for a talent transfer program run by the Victorian Institute of Sport and the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia, with a view of becoming an aerial skier.

She would pull on her skis on the Victorian slopes having never seen snow before, but by the end of the year she had joined the institute’s development team. Her Olympic dream was alive again.

It didn’t come without pressure. Without a sponsor, local community groups pitched in to help ease the cost of lift passes and to pay for equipment.

But the trip to the US would be a test of an entirely different kind. It was her first trip overseas — away from her family at Christmas. There was jet lag to contend with, the dramas of currency conversion and the challenge of suddenly having to cook for herself. The sort of things that could easily derail teenage ambition had this one not been so determined. She clung to the hope that she, too, could follow in the footsteps of her hero, one of aerial skiing’s greatest stars, gold medallist Lydia Lassila.

Their early pathways mirror each other. Lassila was a promising gymnast who retired injured until she too was identified under the program aimed at helping former gymnasts literally take flight.

“I had never skied before, but I had nothing to lose and I grasped the sport with open arms,’’ Lassila has written. “In me, a fire was relit as I embraced my new sport and again developed a hunger to be the best. I had a second chance to make my childhood dream of being an Olympic champion a reality.’’

Lassila, who was also brought up on Melbourne’s suburban fringe, wowed the world to win gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“Lydia inspires me because she always wanted to do the big tricks like the boys,’’ Mikayla says. “She inspires me to do the same. I want to be as good as the boys.’’

But she said being the first indigenous woman on the team inspired her even more. To represent her culture and do well for her people is an ultimate aim.

“I am very proud to be an Aboriginal woman and part of this beautiful culture,’’ Mikayla says.

Mikayla George plans to follow in the footsteps of one of aerial skiing’s greatest stars, gold medallist Lydia Lassila. Picture: Alex Coppel


As the smoke from burning leaves curled across the horizon at the coming of age ceremony last year, Mikayla was encouraged to speak Woiwurrung — the language of her ancestors that was almost lost to time.

She credits the experience for giving her a far deeper understanding of her culture and the ties that bind. Elders whispered snippets of knowledge in her ears, messages only shared in secret by the women of Wurundjeri.

Along with the other girls beside her, she was encouraged to share and set an example for other indigenous girls to follow.

Mikayla returned from Utah last month more determined than ever to pursue her winter Olympic dream. There were plenty of highlights for the teenager, who admitted still being a little giddy from her first overseas experience.

‘‘There was so much snow,’’ she says. ‘‘More than I had ever seen before.’’

But she says it is what she has learned about herself that is proving a highlight of equal measure.

‘‘I realised that I can pick things up pretty easily. I get told what to do and I was able to translate it through the skills. Now I can’t wait to go back.’’

Her training will continue on Victoria’s slopes this winter and at a specially designed aerial water jump facility at Lilydale year round.

She is still seeking a sponsor to help with costs but in the meantime has scored a scholarship under champion Australian surfer Layne Beachley’s Aim for the Stars program — an initiative to help make the dreams of talented young Australians a reality.

She has also been sought out by the newly formed Australian Indigenous Alpine Sport Foundation to act as a representative. The future looks bright.

Herald Sun

Inaugural Alpine Snow Sports Program

AIASF 15-8-15-1 Group

The AIASF would like to announce the success of our first Alpine Snow Sports Program. 13 students and 2 teachers together with mentors from the Australian Indigenous Alpine Sport Foundation participated in a program delivered by Action Learning Initiatives in Jindabyne, which incorporated three days learning how to ski and snowboard together with the opportunity to traverse the pristine region of East Perisher with a 10km return guided cultural and environmental trek to Porcupine Rocks hosted by K7 Adventures.

The group stayed at the lovely Bungarra Alpine Centre situated on 200 acres just outside Jindabyne, arriving in the afternoon of Sunday the 13th September 2015, quickly being fitted for skis or snowboards, plus clothing and boots before progressing to the dining room.

Welcome to Country was performed by the AIASF President, Angel-John Gallard – Ngarigo Elder and Water Keeper, who then joined the group for a lovely meal of healthy fresh food provided by the staff of Action Learning Initiatives. After dinner the group convened in the common room, where Libby Fröhlich from the AIASF designed and produced a banner with the students for group photos the following morning in Thredbo.

On the Monday the students and teachers participated in a two-hour morning lesson proceeded by a tasty lunch at the Snow Sports Area at Friday Flat Thredbo. Following lunch the students again participated in a two-hour lesson of snowboarding or skiing. Buddy group free time boarding finished-off the day with all students now confident with riding the “Easy Does It” Chair lift on Friday Flat. The day finished with another splendid dinner in the dining hall with very exhausted but happy students.

Tuesday began early with a 6.15am hearty breakfast in the dining hall before hitting the slopes for a two-hour group lesson for skiers and snowboarders. After lessons and lunch all students were keen to practice their new skills with a quite a few ready to try the Gunbarrel Chairlift to Merritts a bit further up the mountain with longer runs. After another lovely dinner the kids returned to light the outdoor fire-pit outside their accommodation and retired to relax in the converted train carriages outside Junction West building where we were bunked.

Wednesday there was a thrill in the air as we departed for Thredbo, the kids had confidence now and were eager to ask for their lessons to be conducted up the mountain and on the terrain parks allowing them to tackle the jumps and steeper runs. These kids were complete naturals with almost three quarters of the group tackling the highest runs up the Karels T-Bar skiing and boarding the entire mountain runs. What an achievement, two days earlier most of the participants hadn’t even seen snow. The students, teachers, mentors and Thredbo Ski and Snowboarding instructors were all very proud of the progress shown by the whole group.

On top of the World!
On top of the World!

With the thrill of downhill sports accomplished the group set out to learn about the pristine alpine region with a hearty 10km return walk to Porcupine Rocks setting out from Perisher Valley National Parks office after a briefing on Alpine Survival run by K7 adventures and guided by Acacia Rose and Jane. Jane gave demonstrations of different cross-country competition sports before setting out on our snow shoeing adventure where the students were provided information on the environmental requirements to protect such a valuable resource of the Alpine regions of Australia. A picnic lunch was enjoyed amongst the natural beauty of the snow gums before enjoying splendid views of Crackenback Valley from the peak. The group was joined by local Elder Angel-John Gallard and Nancy-Gant Thompson from the AIASF.

That evening the group gathered in the train carriages for a presentation put together by Toronto High School teachers where the groups’ achievements were able to be enjoyed via a powerpoint presentation. Thank you cards and small gifts from the Toronto High School students were given to Lynda Kimber from AIASF and Nathan Brown from ALI for the success of the program with the students expressing their gratitude for being able to participate.


The next morning the students were all presented with AIASF T-shirts sponsored by 24 Hour Merchandising presented by AIASF Public Officer Robert Fröhlich.

A very special mention to Jordan Rodgers and Stuart Diver of Kosciuszko Thredbo Pty Limited for the generous donation of lift and lesson tickets for all students over all days of our snow program…Thanks you so much!

Thanks to all!
Thanks to all!

Thredbo Mountain staff and Media were all tremendous and helped the group gain confidence with professional instruction and assistance. THANK YOU THREDBO!

Also a big thank you to the staff at Harro’s Snow Sports, Crackenback  who are always available to advise and provide expert safety, equipment and snow industry knowledge ensuring the well being of our participants.

All in all the AIASF is very proud of the success of our very first Alpine Sports Program! We look forward to Winter 2016!

Australian Indigenous Alpine Sport Foundation Up and Running

AIASF croppedThe Australian Indigenous Alpine Sport Foundation now has a website and is underway.

We are now seeking donations to help get our programs running.

Big thanks for your support so far.  Our ultimate goal is to go for Gold, help us get our first Indigenous Entrant into a Winter Olympic Games.

Show Australia you support the Australian Indigenous Alpine Sport Foundation.