Jacqueline Anne Snarr (1961-2010)

A snowboarding pioneer and advocate, she recently realized one of her biggest dreams

Jacqueline Anne Snarr (1961-2010)Jacqueline Anne Snarr (née Primeau) was born in Toronto on Oct. 28, 1961, the first of five children to Anne, a nurse, and William, who was in the masonry business. Jackie was raised in Etobicoke, Ont., where she practised ballet and gymnastics. She inherited her competitive spirit from her grandfather—the famed Maple Leafs player and coach “Gentleman” Joe Primeau—and started putting it to use in 1969, when the family bought a log cabin in Markdale, Ont. It was a quick drive to the Old Smoky Hill and Beaver Valley Ski Club, where she refused to get off the mountain no matter how bad the weather, and developed a lifelong passion for the slopes.

Jackie was 18 and at a pub in Mississauga, Ont., when she caught the eye of her future husband, Scott Snarr, an amateur hockey player who landed a job as a firefighter. He asked her to dance, and a year later, tucked away in a secluded spot on Beaver Valley’s slopes, he proposed.

Soon afterward, Jackie got her certification to work in special education and started teaching autistic children. But she put her career on hold when her first child, Anne-Marie, was born in 1985. Two sons followed—Andrew, in 1987, and Tommy, in 1989—and Jackie stayed home, raising the young family in Streetsville, Ont. “She was the kind of mom who would write love notes in your lunches,” says Anne-Marie.

In 1995, Jackie was back in the classroom. Even though she was working full-time, taking care of her children, and sometimes plowing snow late at night to help Scott with his second job, Jackie was never short of energy. When she grew bored of skiing in the early ’90s, she took up snowboarding. “She was one of the first women to be on a board,” says Scott. “She could only snowboard with young men, even though she was a mother of three, and she became very good because they were all very aggressive.” Jackie loved alpine racing and regularly beat people half her age. But she was always gracious, almost to a fault. Once, she was so far ahead of the competition that timekeepers thought they must have made a mistake and added 10 seconds to her time, placing her in third instead of first. Scott was fuming, but Jackie didn’t care. “I get a lot of glory,” she told him. “Let them have their fun.”

Because she was one of only a handful of people with experience in the sport, Jackie was asked to volunteer as the director of snowboarding for Beaver Valley, where the old guard tried to keep boarders from taking over their ski hill. But they couldn’t fight Jackie’s charm, and by 2000 she’d managed to win the club over. “She had no problem walking up to the guy driving the CAT and making him melt in her hand to get what she needed done—to have the guy show up early to get the boarder cross course just right,” says Scott.

But her volunteering wasn’t bound to the ski hill. Jackie was also a vital part of Rebecca’s Hope, a charity that raises funds for leukemia research. When the organization’s namesake, a student named Rebecca Denise Borg, fell ill in 2002, Jackie started a food drive and personally made sure her family had a meal waiting outside their door every evening. She had a tireless dedication to anyone in need, which is part of what made her so great at her job—since 2005, she taught at Mississauga’s Corpus Christi Elementary. “She was an incredibly patient teacher,” says her sister Karen Anand. “A quality needed even more so when working with children with special needs.”

Jackie was elected to the Association of Ontario Snowboarders’ board of directors. She wasn’t on the job long when it became clear that the association had huge administration problems, and was at risk of losing its funding. For three years, she fought to keep the AOS afloat, eventually becoming president and rebuilding the entire organization from the ground up. Thanks to her, it is now a model for sports associations across Canada. “She saved the sport for the province,” says Christy Deere, one of Jackie’s best friends.

Recently, Jackie got the chance to live one of her biggest dreams: going to the Olympics. Her connections and expertise landed her a prime volunteer spot clearing snow from the starting gates between races, where she rubbed shoulders with the world’s best.

Jackie was riding high after the Games. The International Ski Federation wanted her to work as a technical director for Ontario, and she was back spending much of her free time on the slopes. “I’d pass her on the runs going up the lift,” says Scott. “She was flying.”

On March 17, Jackie was rocketing down the Beaver Valley trails when she suddenly went off course and hit a tree. She was rushed to hospital, but died from her injuries. She was 48.

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