Since its humble beginnings as an upstart one-year program on Nelson’s Silver King Campus in 1980, the Ski Resort Operations & Management Program (SROAM) has become a foundational post-secondary educational training ground.
Found in every corner and crevasse of the outdoor industry, 40 years of SROAM grads make a daily difference throughout the Kootenays, across the country and around the globe.
As Selkirk College marks the ruby anniversary of a program with such remarkable depth, it’s the ideal time to trace the turns that got us to 40.
Bob Dodge is a SROAM alumnus (Class of 1984) and industry veteran who returned to teach in what has evolved into a two-year program that’s now based out of Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus. Recently retired after 24 years of inspiring mentorship, Dodge presents an ongoing series that takes a closer look at the SROAMie legacy of success.
The White Place for a Post-Secondary Ski Program
Whitewater Ski Resort and the SROAM program have had a symbiotic and synergistic relationship for the whole 40-year history of the program. We make each other better. In this story we will look at some of the SROAMies who have contributed to the success of Whitewater. But first I would like to acknowledge what Whitewater does and has done to enhnce and support the program.
Regardless of who has been at the helm of Whitewater, they have always been active members of the Program Advisory Committee which is crucial to keeping the curriculum current and maintaining a strong relationship with the ski industry. Whitewater has literally provided SROAM with an on-mountain classroom. They have always been so generous in making their facilities and staff available. Students visit the mountain and/or have Whitewater management or staff speak to them for virtually all the operational courses, including: Ski Area Planning, Lifts, Grooming, Facilities Maintenance, Snow Safety and Ski Patrol, Rental Retail, Snow School and Guest Services, Events, and Ski Area Construction. This direct exposure to ski area facilities adds so much value to the educational experience for students.
Whitewater provides scholarships each year to second-year students with the highest academic standing. Whitewater general manager Kirk Jensen is seen here presenting the scholarship to Tristan Johnson (Class of 2020) who is the lift operation supervisor at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
For many students a highlight of this exposure is the opportunity to spend several hours in a snowcat with the Whitewater grooming crew. Lead groomer, and SROAM grad from 1986 Sean Hetherington, facilitates a groomer ride-along shift for every student every year. Students who are keen to get into grooming are often invited to do extra shifts. This has helped several of them secure grooming positions at other resorts for their workterms. Sean is the longest term SROAMie at Whitewater.
Students and faculty are so grateful for the opportunity to enhance classroom learning with a hands-on experience. SROAM instructors Ross White and Robyn Mitz were Whitewater’s outdoor and indoor operations managers respectively prior to coming to Selkirk College, so they have intimate knowledge of how to best utilize Whitewater for the benefit of the students. Whitewater also provides scholarships each year to second-year students with the highest academic standing.
Whitewater has employed so many SROAM students and graduates I can’t begin to cover them all. I estimate that during my time with the program an average of two to three students per year complete their workterm at Whitewater, some staying long term, some moving on after a season or two. The math suggests that would be a about 100 in total in 40 years.
There is no question the SROAMie who has had the biggest impact on Whitewater is my friend and classmate from the Class of 1984, Mike Adams. Mike managed to land the general manager job at Whitewater shortly after graduating from SROAM. The ski area was run by a not-for-profit society that Mike says took the not-for-profit part too literally. The society was deep in debt, so his mandate was to get it on solid financial footing.
Mike Adams was the GM of Whitewater for over 30 years and transformed it from a fledgling financially struggling area to a world-class resort. He is enjoying his well deserved retirement. (David Gluns photo)
As a recent graduate, Mike thought he didn’t have much of a chance of getting the job. But he had Bachelor of Commerce degree, so was comfortable reading and discussing the financial statements. Mike also credits his workterm at Mount Washington with preparing him for the job. The GM there was a strong supporter of the SROAM program and designed a workterm that saw Mike working in virtually every department on the mountain. Knowing Mike as a guy who is very comfortable laughing at himself, I like to suggest he got the job because he was only person they could afford.
In 1986, Mike and 11 other local businesspeople purchased Whitewater from the society, one step in the process to long-term viability. In 1996, Mike and his wife Shelley bought out the other shareholders. Shelly is solely responsible for Whitewater’s reputation of having the best food of any ski area in Canada. Her talents have led to the publishing of the award-winning Whitewater Cooks series of cookbooks.
Under Mike and Shelley’s leadership, Whitewater developed an international reputation as one of North America’s best little resorts which went hand-in-hand with Nelson’s growing reputation as an idyllic ski town. Mike was a committed supporter of the SROAM program and mentored numerous students over the years. In 2011, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the SROAM program, Mike was honored with the Selkirk College Distinguished Alumnus award for his outstanding accomplishments in the ski industry and support of the program.
When it came time to consider retirement, Mike and Shelley started looking for potential buyers who would carry their vision for the resort forward. In 2008, they were fortunate to find current owners Knee Deep Development who were committed to maintaining and improving upon the incredible Whitewater culture. Mike and Shelley’s timing could not have been better with the economic crash of 2008 coming about a month after the sale.
For the sake of brevity, I will fast forward past the numerous SROAMies who have contributed to the success of Whitewater over the years and highlight those that there now.
This winter, 17 SROAM grads were employed with Whitewater. That number has been fairly consistent since a mass influx from the Class of 2016. Eight students from that class have worked at Whitewater and five are still there.
All five of the women from that class have spent time at Whitewater. Nicola Mitchell spent three seasons in a variety of guest service roles and is now completing her degree at Thompson Rivers University. Paisley Randall coached the Whitewater Ski Team for three seasons. She also has the distinction of being the first (and only) second generation SROAM grad. Her father Craig Randall graduated in 2005. He has been a long-term volunteer with the Whitewater Ski Team.
All five of the women from the Class of 2016 have contributed to the Whitewater team, (L-R) Paisley Randall, Devon Brooke, Nicola Mitchell, Hanna Ferris and Katrina Brinovec.
Devon Brook and Kat Brinovec are enduring stalwarts of the trail crew. Both seem quite entrenched at Whitewater, so I suspect we will see their smiling faces there for years to come. Devon hails from Field, BC and worked at Lake Louise for a few years but has converted to a die-hard West Kootenay girl. Kat is also a convert, unlikely to return to her roots on the slopes of Lakeridge Resort in Caledon, Ontario.
Hanna Ferris is the retail supervisor. She is another one born to be a SROAMie with both her parents being graduates of the Humber College Ski Resort Management program in the 1980s. She grew up at Hidden Valley Resort in Hunstville, Ontario where her father was operations manager, so she knew what sheave assemblies and grouser bars were before arriving at SROAM. Hanna has been picking away at completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, but is in no hurry to move onto another career as she is quite fond of her nine-month-a-year gig at Whitewater.
Graham Gardner is another 2016 alumnus who could become a Whitewater lifer. He has had a few roles from retail to loader operator, but has primarily worked trail crew with a passion for the terrain park and is now the park groomer.
Rounding out representation from the Class of 2016 is Kyle Urvold. Kyle completed his workterm at Sunshine Village in the group services and events department. He worked as a bike mechanic for a few years, before landing the much-coveted job in lift maintenance at Whitewater in 2018. He is currently working his way through the Millwright Apprenticeship program.
Matt Dinunzio (Class of 2006) is a 15-year veteran at Whitewater and is also a millwright apprentice. In his first year as a lift operator Matt won the Employee of the Year award, which helped earn him a job as one of Whitewater’s first terrain park builders. He has also spent several years in the shop doing snowcat maintenance.
Matt Dinunzio (Class of 2006) was employee of the year in his first year at Whitewater. A decade and half later, his enthusiasm is now directed towards job as apprentice lift mechanic.
The rental shop has been a highly popular department at Whitewater for SROAMies. Lee Richmond (Class of 2010) has been there since graduating with the exception of a two-year hiatus to earn a Bachelor of Tourism & Recreation at Vancouver Island University. He has been the shop supervisor for several years and has a very compatible summer job as coordinator of the Nelson Paddle Rental Center at Lakeside Park. He loves the variety the two jobs provide and enjoys a little time off each spring and fall between jobs. Anthony Wanless (Class of 2012) from Williams Lake has been Lee’s right-hand man for close to a decade, and James Wilfong-Pritchard (Class of 2017) has added much to the team with the experience he gained on his workterm in the rental department at Whistler Blackcomb.
Jeff Kennedy (Class of 2017) is the most recent SROAMie to take on a supervisory role, leading the indoor guest services crew. Jeff completed his workterm and the following year in an administrative role at Snowwater Heli-Skiing/Valhalla Powder Cats before joining the Whitewater team. He is currently working on getting his real estate licence, so he may be the guy to see when Whitewater starts developing their real estate plans.
Bradley Moore (Class of 2013) hails from Nova Scotia and is now in his eighth year at Whitewater. In the winter he has possibly the best job on the mountain leading the trail crew. He has stayed on most summers and been involved in virtually all the facility improvements during that time. He is very adept at swinging a hammer, a paint brush or brush saw.
Laurence (Lo) Bachand (Class of 2011) has ten seasons in at Whitewater. To say that Lo is a colorful character is an understatement. She well known for her skiing talents; few people can keep up with her. She is also an accomplished hockey player and mountain biker. Whatever she does, she does with gusto. I had the pleasure of becoming friends with Lo the summer before she enrolled in SROAM due to our shared passion for whitewater paddling. We had some good adventures together on and off the river, but I will refrain from further elaboration here. Lo is a senior patroller and has her CAA Avalanche Operations Level 2 certification and loves teaching AST (Avalanche Skills Training) courses. In the summer, Lo leads a crew for BC Wildfire Service.
Not easy to get Lo Bachand (Class of 2011) to slow down a little from her normal mach-1 speed to capture this pic.
The lone SROAM representative in snow school is British born George Madeley (Class of 2019). George put in a season teaching at Whistler Blackcomb before attending SROAM and last year passed his level 3 CASI (Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors) certification.
Completing the roster of Whitewater SROAMies are three from this year’s graduating class. Josie Michaud worked with Hanna in the retail shop and was the in-house chalkboard artist, and Iain Mckay was in guest services with Jeff. Josie and Iain are a delightful young couple who met while working at Big White after migrating from the flatlands of Alberta and Saskatchewan respectively. Kirstie Leighton—from Thornhill, Scotland—spent the previous two winters in the Whitewater’s snowschool and moved into dispatch for her workterm. She was the recipient of last year’s Fred Bosinger Sunshine Village scholarship for top academic standing in first year. She can also be found a couple of nights a week serving up beer at Backroads Brewing.
Indoor guest services supervisor Jeff Kennedy (Class of 2017) and Iain Mckay (Class of 2021), a couple of flatlanders loving life in the Kootenays.
Twenty-four years in my job with the SROAM program has given me a very unique perspective into the cultures in Western Canada’s ski areas. Visiting resorts on field trips and students on workterms, in-class discussions about their experiences, keeping in touch with graduates all throughout the industry, and years of work with the CWSAA HR Committee qualify me to make at least reasonably educated assessments of ski areas employment culture. I can honestly say that Whitewater stands out as special resort in terms of its employee satisfaction and pride. The incredible snow and terrain certainly contribute to that, but so many students and graduates praise the close-knit family-like culture amongst staff as the reason they stay. Whitewater is blessed with above average retention and a reputation that produces enough applicants to be very selective in their hiring. Jerks never make in the door and if they do, they don’t last. They are one of the few resorts of any size that does not need to actively recruit foreign workers. Until about five years ago they also benefited from Nelson having a lower cost of housing than most resort communities, but that advantage has diminished somewhat.
I credit both the past and present owners and managers with building and maintaining this culture. General manager Kirk Jensen, indoor operations manager Rebeckah Hornung and outdoor operations manager Colby Lehman lead by example and the result is highly cohesive and dedicated team of managers, supervisors and staff.
I asked Kirk to share his perspective on what SROAMies bring to the Whitewater team. He responded with these words of praise: “These SROAM graduates bring a wealth of knowledge, insight and understanding to their roles and carry over their passion for the industry they developed in the SROAM program. These valuable team members help elevate our products and services, again thanks to what they have learned in the SROAM program. These staff continue to offer great leadership and strive to ensure a positive guest experience while keeping the same great Whitewater vibe alive that the resort is known for.”
On behalf of the SROAM faculty and students, past, present and future, I would like to express how thankful we are to Whitewater and how much we value the mutually beneficial relationship.
Fringes of the Ski Industry
My intention for this story was to highlight graduates whose careers have naturally evolved from the ski industry to jobs outside, but closely related to it. Then I discovered that some of the people I spoke to still consider themselves very much a part of the industry. So rather than trying to make a black-and-white, somewhat irrelevant distinction, out of gray, I have chosen to categorize all as on the fringes. This way I can keep with my pattern of having a somewhat coherent theme for each story.
Scott and Josie Macdonald (Class of 2004) have the distinction of having met in the SROAM Program, married and produced SROAMie babies. Rio and Casey are not the only kids out there with two SROAMie parents, but they may be the only two whose parents met in the SROAM classroom.
Scott and Josie Macdonald first met in the SROAM Program in 2004 and a few years later reconnected. Today they are running a successful business in Whistler and have a young family.
Scott and Josie both completed their workterms at Sunshine Village, Josie in retail and Scott on ski patrol. They went their separate ways for a few years with Josie working for CMH Heliskiing and Scott continuing to patrol at Sunshine and in New Zealand. In different years, they also both earned a Bachelor of Entrepreneurial Management at Royal Roads University. Many SROAMies have taken advantage of this program that allows graduates of two-year business diploma programs to complete their degree in one intensive year at Royal Roads.
They reconnected and started a business buying rundown heritage houses and buildings, renovating them, and selling them. This was based primarily in Vancouver, but eventually evolved into a property management company in Whistler where they have been loving the mountain lifestyle since 2012. Josie says their business can be a lot of work and stressful at times, but gives them the flexibility to frequently play on the skis/bikes and travel.
I didn’t want to pry too much into the details of their business, but they have managed to accumulate enough real estate holdings to house 50 people. They have a beautiful home which is part of their business that they rent for several weeks each year to finance their travel habit. In the last several years they have been to Italy, Japan, Vietnam, Turkey, Dominican Republic, Central America and much of southern Asia. A perusal of their photos shows they are really living the dream.
Over the last several years, Scott has been working towards his ski guide certification. He has been apprenticing at Bella Coola Heliskiing and Altus Mountain Guides, and completed a practicum on a week-long ski tour from Chamonix France to Zermatt Switzerland. In early-April, he received notice that he has successfully completed the requirement for his ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) Ski Guide Certification. Congrats Scott!
Bryan Ralph (Class of 2001) is known to almost everyone as Ralphie. He is one of the few SROAM graduates to have also completed Selkirk College’s Golf Club Management & Operations Program and for a few years after graduation alternated between winter work at Whitewater and summers at Granite Pointe Golf Course in Nelson. He is another one of our success stories who completed his workterm in Kawaba, Katashina Japan where he met Chris Romanuik, featured in my last story. He worked with Romer installing chairlifts for Doppelmayr for several years.
Brian Ralph is a world class photographer who started taking pictures while enroled in the SROAM Program back in 2001.
In addition to his sharp wit and fabulous sense of humor, Ralphie is best known for his accomplishments as a world class ski photographer. He started photography while in SROAM on a camera borrowed from his mother. He admits that part of his motivation was to get his classmates, who were better skiers than him, to let him tag along with them on the ski hill. He quickly got some great shots, so the hockey player from Peterborough was soon hanging out with the cool kids on the ski hill. Fast forward a few years and some of the world’s top skiers are amongst his good friends and the subjects of his photo talents.
Ralphie’s photos have been published in virtually every major ski magazine and he works with many companies, including Red Bull, who have sent him all over the world. While he loves being published, Ralphie says his least favorite photo activity is competing in ski photo competitions but for some reason he does it anyway. Most of the competitions are live shoot scenarios head-to-head against the best in the industry. His crowning achievement thus far was competing in the Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown which is part of the Whistler Ski & Snowboard Festival. Only a few photographers are picked to show their life work each year and he was honored to be selected.
Making a living as a ski photographer is tough, so in 2011 Ralphie started taking on some part-time contracts with Freeride Entertainment, an industry leader and innovator in video productions famous for their productions of the Red Bull Rampage, the world’s premiere mountain biking event. In 2014, that turned into a full-time job as assistant editor and he is now the post-production supervisor responsible for final completion and delivery of project to their clients.
If you want a see samples of his photography, check out his webpage www.ralphie.ca and for a closer look at his humor click on a couple of his videos on Ralphie TV. How to be Sled Sick Xmas Glow.
Cody Lynge (Class of 2002) is another character whose ski industry work evolved into a fascinating career. Cody grew up on Vancouver’s North Shore, but his parents had a place at Whistler so he did most of skiing there, joining the Blackcomb freestyle team in high school. He worked as an instructor there for two seasons before enroling in the SROAM Program.
Cody Lynge graduated from the SROAM Program in 2002 and today is the head of sports marketing for Red Bull Canada based in Toronto.
Cody completed his workterm at Mount Seymour working as a dispatcher, which he enjoyed. But his passion was to be on the hill more than in the office. Even though it was 19 years ago, I recall his workerm project quite well. I have used it as an example many times of how students can use the project as a stepping-stone to better opportunities. The project requirements call for a solid 20-25 pages information. Cody wrote a 75-page proposal for the design and operation of the terrain park, including the events it would host. A++ work by a longshot. That impressed Seymour management enough to give him the job of running the park and its events the following season.
Under his leadership, the Mount Seymour park enhanced its reputation as the best on the North Shore and attracted many top and rising athletes, sponsors and events. During this time, he also completed his Tourism Management Degree at Capilano University.
While at Seymour, he became friends with Canadian pro-skier JP Auclair who was sponsored by Orage clothing. This relationship led to Cody accepting the job as team manager of Orage and management of global events. This job was based in Montreal. Cody missed the west coast, and his ticket back was the job of leading western Canada sales and marketing for Orage. Sadly, JP was killed in an avalanche in Chile in 2014.
In 2012, Cody took a job with Red Bull as field marketing manager for BC and in 2014 was promoted to his current job as head of sports marketing for Red Bull Canada based in Toronto. With a staff of 20, he is responsible for all Canadian events, athletes and strategic partnerships and a new division, video gaming. Like most SROAMies I have featured in theses stories, Cody credits the program with setting him on this fabulous path and connecting him with valuable contacts.
Mark Talbot (Class of 2000) is possibly the only SROAMie I know that no longer works directly in the ski industry, but still does much of his work on skis. He works for the British Columbia Ministry of Transport (MOT) as the district avalanche supervisor for Kootenay Pass. This is a highly coveted job that few people leave once they get it. It is secure year-round work in Nelson with government wage, benefits and pension. And he gets to go ski touring and throw bombs from helicopters. How cool is that?
Mark Talbot graduated from the SROAM Program in 2000 and started working at Whitewater as a ski instructor and then ski patrol. Today he is the district avalanche supervisor on the highest maintained mountain pass in Canada.
The job has its complexities, but the objectives are quite simple: maintaining a safe and reliable highway. They keep the public safe by ensuring no avalanches hit the highway while it is open and manage avalanche control and snow removal, so any necessary closure times are as short as possible. The majority of avalanche control is done using remote controlled Gasex exploders which means so much of the off-season is spent on maintenance of this equipment in the alpine.
How does a SROAMie get a great job like this? Mark’s path was through the Whitewater ski patrol. He completed his workterm as a ski instructor at Whitewater and then moved into ski patrol. Whitewater has a strong avalanche control program, so it is great training ground for those wanting to pursue this line of work. Mark soaked up all the mentorship available from those ahead of him and in less than 10 years he progressed from rookie to the #2 position on ski patrol, picking up all the necessary certifications along the way. He started working part-time for the MOT and his timing was perfect, landing a full-time job in 2010 and moving up to the supervisor position in 2014. He now holds a CAA (Canadian Avalanche Association) Avalanche Operations Level 3 certification, the highest level.
While Mark is well known in the world of professional avalanche technicians, he is even more famous around Nelson for his prowess on the hockey rink.
Like Eric Kossakowski who was featured in my last blog, Bart Donnelly (Class of 1993) grew up skiing on Mount Blackstrap in Saskatoon and by the time he was year out of high school, he had worked in almost every department there. Bart completed his workterm at Lake Louise Ski Area doing a variety of jobs from snowmaking to ski school. He soon found himself in the interesting job of “promotions” in the sales and marketing department. This was a multifaceted job that including spending evenings bouncing around the bars of Banff, MCing events, giving away SWAG, schmoozing bartenders and servers, all in an effort to drive day ticket sales at Lake Louise. He also hosted fam tours and worked both fall consumer ski shows, as well as spring ski shows for tour operators and ski clubs throughout the US.
Bart Donnelly has spent a diverse career on the fringes of the industry where he has found success in bringing people to the mountains.
Bart developed a talent and a passion for working with tour operators and pursued that path as sales manager for Jasper Park Lodge focussing on the UK and Germany, destination sales manager for Whistler Blackcomb with an emphasis on the Japan market, then returned to Banff in similar roles for Ski Big 3 and Banff Lake Louise Tourism.
This all led to Bart to working for Travel Alberta as the director of business development for the US and Europe. With skiing still his primary passion and skiers being a significant portion of international tourism for Alberta, Bart definitely sees himself as still being in the ski industry. When asked how SROAM influenced his path, like others he emphasized the contacts and relationships formed in the industry as well as employers recognizing the SROAM diploma as a commitment to a career in the industry.
If I were to write stories about graduates with significant career achievements outside the ski industry, I would have no idea where I would stop. That list is very long and I need to stop somewhere. When prospective students ask me about the whether they can actually make a living in the ski industry, my standard response is: “There will always be easier ways to make money, but few that are as enjoyable.”
Many of our graduates spend anywhere from a couple of years to a decade or more in the industry before taking another career path. Sometimes that is closely related to the industry or in ski towns, sometimes it is a totally new direction. All are still part of the SROAM family and Selkirk College is proud to have part of their journey.
I’m not done yet! My next story will focus on the SROAMies of Whitewater and the fabulous partnership between the program and the ski area.
Beyond the Boundaries: Non-Resort Ski Industry Careers
What usually comes to mind when most people think of ski industry careers is working in and for a ski resort. But there is a world of opportunity in other aspects of the industry, and several of our grads have taken these paths.
I first met my good friend Chris Romanuik (Class of 1995), known to most people as Romer, when I was HR manager at Cypress Mountain and he was a SROAM student applying for his workterm job. It was one of those interviews that within about five minutes I knew I wanted to hire him, and I spent the rest of time selling him on coming to Cypress. I hired him to supervise our youth work experience program, a job he held along with a few others for four seasons. He then spent three winters in Kawaba, Japan in the program developed in partnership with Selkirk College. Those were winter jobs, so he found himself working on lift construction crews in the summers.
Chris Romanuik (Class of 1995), known to most people as Romer, spent the better part of 18 years building lifts for Doppelmayr all over North America. He worked long days installing lifts from April to December so he could take winters off to ski. (Bryan Ralph photo)
Chris spent the better part of 18 years building lifts for Doppelmayr all over North America and earned his millwright ticket along the way. He says he has lost count, but estimates he has had a hand in building about 50 different lifts at almost that number of different ski areas. For a young single guy, this was a pretty sweet gig.
He would normally start work in April, building one or two lifts in western Canada and then finish off the building season helping with the completion of jobs in the United States. The work weeks were long, which meant some healthy paycheques allowing him to take winters off to ski bum. Within a few years, he had made friends in numerous resorts, so couches to crash on and comp lift tickets were easy to come by. With Vancouver as home base, he skied a lot at Cypress and Whistler, but every year was able to do a trip or two following the snow and visiting friends. The highlight of these ski-bumming seasons was a 26-day ski trip through Europe, something very few people working in the ski industry can ever do.
He reminisces fondly about those years and his friends will attest to his ability fill hours of conversation with some great stories. He says his crew was often treated a little like rock stars in some towns, but eventually the novelty of living in hotels and eating pub food every night wears off. Once he found his wife-to-be, Teryle, he decided to stick closer to home and has now been a lift mechanic at Whistler Blackcomb for seven years. He still gets in his hard-core ski days, but is just as happy ripping up the slopes with Teryle and six-year-old daughter Isabelle.
Jason Gill (Class of 1990), started working for his uncle at Mount Seymour at the age of 12. By the time he graduated high school, Jason knew a ski industry career was for him and he enrolled directly in the SROAM Program. Over the next several years he spent time working at Seymour, Grouse Mountain, Hemlock Resort and completed his millwright ticket at Cypress Mountain, before a five-year stint as a lift mechanic at Whistler Blackcomb.
Jason Gill (Class of 1990) was the lead safety officer for the construction of Whistler Blackcomb's Peak to Peak Gondola before becoming the provincial safety manager of ropeways and amusement rides for the BC Safety Authority, now Technical Safety BC.
In 1999, he went to work for the Province of BC as a lift inspector. In 2004, responsibility for lift inspections was shifted to the newly formed BC Safety Authority, now Technical Safety BC. Soon after, as a senior lift inspector, Jason took on the two-year job of lead safety officer for the construction of the Whistler Peak to Peak Gondola, the most sophisticated aerial ropeway in North America.
In 2009, Jason was promoted to provincial safety manager of ropeways and amusement rides. It is in this role that he flourished as highly respected leader in the ski industry. He was a member and vice chair of the Z98 Technical Committee which sets the standards for design, operations, maintenance and inspections of passenger ropeways in Canada. He was also a key player in the development of lift mechanic courses, S151, S152 and S153 for surface lifts, fixed grip lifts and detachable lifts respectively, which are administered and delivered by Selkirk College. Jason was recognized on the international stage when he gave a presentation at the International Conference of Technical Supervisory Authorities (ITTAB) in Lucerne, Switzerland. This is a worldwide organization of regulatory bodies dedicated to sharing information about safety of passenger ropeways.
In 2014, Jason’s role at BC Safety Authority was greatly expanded to include elevating devices. I have no idea how many elevators and escalators there are in BC, but know it dwarfs the number of ski lifts, so this was huge portfolio of responsibility.
Sadly, in October of 2016, Jason’s career was sidetracked by a tragic accident. As a pedestrian, he was hit by car and suffered numerous life-altering injuries including a brain injury. His rehabilitation has been a long battle, but speaking to him this week he is feeling very thankful about the progress he has made. Jason is thrilled to be back in the ski industry working as maintenance planner for Grouse Mountain and as an associate on the Z-98 Technical Committee.
Another SROAMie who has had his hands on a whole bunch of chairlifts is Ross Muirhead (Class of 2010). His roots in the ski industry run deep with his parents Don and Debbie Muirhead being ski industry lifers. Don graduated in 1980 from the long defunct Humber College Ski Resort Management Program. He and Debbie started Inter-Mtn Testing and Inter-Mtn Enterprises which have been highly regarded suppliers to the ski industry for decades. Anyone who has attended a CWSAA conference golf tournament in Kelowna is very familiar with the famous Inter-Mtn shooter cart.
Ross Muirhead (Class of 2010) is general manager of Inter-Mtn Testing. He enjoys the balance of managing the business and regularly getting his hands dirty on the job sites. His company does non-destructive testing in several industries from construction cranes to mining equipment but their roots and hearts are with the ski industry.
Don and Debbie are approaching retirement and their succession plan has been to have Ross and his sister Leah take over the two businesses. Don and Deb are currently presidents of the respective companies. Leah is CEO of Inter-Mtn Enterprises and Ross is general manager of Inter-Mtn Testing. To continue the family business tradition, both of their spouses work with them.
Inter-Mtn testing does non-destructive testing on a variety of transportation-related equipment. They got their start with ski lifts, but have branched out into a variety of industries from construction cranes to mining. The ski industry now represents about one-third of their business, but Ross says that it will always remain a core foundation and where his heart is.
In high school, Ross worked at Big White as a lift operator when he wasn’t ski racing. In the years between high school and attending SROAM, he gained experience in snowmaking and grooming at Panorama and Lake Louise while learning the ropes of NDT testing at Inter-Mtn in the summers.
Ross completed his SROAM workterm operating the transporter snow cat at Grouse Mountain during the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It was a horrible snow year, but Grouse was open 24-hours-a-day during the Olympics and hosted much of the media, so it was exciting to be a part of the action.
To diversify his experience and education, Ross spent a few years in oilfield work and taking more business courses at Okanagan College before returning full time to Inter-Mtn. As general manager, he now oversees a full-time staff of eight with a few more in the summer. He enjoys the balance of managing the business and regularly getting out to job sites. He is a shoe-in to be a future SROAM Hall of Famer.
Enough about people working with chairlifts, there is so many more career paths that SROAM grads take. Eric Kossakowski (Class of 2003) is one of many who have found great careers in the wholesale hard and soft goods side if the industry. Eric grew up skiing the mighty slopes of Mount Blackstrap, just outside Saskatoon. It was trip as a teenager to Fernie that sold him on a life involving skiing.
Eric Kossakowski (Class of 2003) is one of several SROAM grads making their living on the wholesale hard and soft goods side of the industry. Eric has been with Salomon for 15 years.
Eric had a couple of years Commerce at university and a season as a lifty at Whistler under his belt before attending the SROAM Program. He returned to Whistler for his workterm, spending more than two years at the Salomon Store before being recruited as a tech rep for Salomon based in Calgary. In 2007, he moved up to the position of territory manager. He still holds that position, but the account base and product offerings have increased substantially during that time. Working on commission, he is free to represent other non-competing brands so has added Therm-ic heated products and Sidas insoles to his line-up.
Eric’s vast territory includes more than 80 retail and ski area accounts stretching from the East Kootenay of BC to Thunder Bay, Ontario, so he spends some time on the road. Working for such a major international brand has also resulted in some fabulous trips to Europe. Success in his job is largely dependent on building relationships and Eric is grateful for many he established through the SROAM Program.
There are several other graduates in this line of work, but time and space don’t allow me to cover them all in detail.
Dan Anderson (Class of 2002) operates Kingpin Agencies representing Airblaster outerwear and Union bindings amongst other brands.
Phil George (Class of 2003) represents Wired Snowboards and Ogio Backpacks.
Eric Gelling (Class of 2010) is a rep for Ride Snowboards.
Matt Skaien (Class of 2014) is a rep for Smith Optics.
And now for something completely different. I first met Todd Allison (Class of 1985) when he was on his SROAM workterm at Panorama. He was a competitive freestyle skier who I remember being diligent about his training, while I was more diligent about partying. He competed for four years on the Canadian National Freestyle Team before transitioning into coaching for the team and being certified as a Chartered Professional Coach (ChCP).
Todd Allison (Class of 1985) has spent most of his career developing Olympic athletes but also loves his time in the backcountry.
The world of high-level competitive sports is a quite foreign to me, so I find Todd’s career path quite fascinating. It is the most unique ski industry career of any SROAMie I know. He was the team leader for Freestyle Canada at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, then worked for 2010 Legacies Now which developed sport programs to develop athletes and leave lasting legacies in the communities in which it worked.
In 2005, he started work with VANOC (Vancouver Olympic Committee) in a few roles including the Athlete Village operations manager, where he says much of his SROAM schooling became very useful. He was then recruited by the US Olympic Committee for a four-year stint working towards the Sochi Olympics among other international events, before returning to Canada to join the Own The Podium team as high-performance advisor. His current job is senior high-performance director at Freestyle Canada. In his spare time, he also was a founding member and advisory to the First Nations Snowboard Team and is a CSGA (Canadian Ski Guide Association) guide.
As the 2020-21 ski season wraps up for most resorts, I must say how impressed I am with the management teams of all the resorts who navigated through the challenges of addressing the threat of the coronavirus to remain open. Much credit must also be given to Christopher and his team at CWSAA for providing the direction and collaboration that lead to successful season for the industry. Let’s hope for simpler times next season.
Check back for my next edition of Tales of SROAM Success in which I will feature graduates whose careers paths have taken them to fringes of the ski industry.
The West May the Best, but the East Competes
No matter where SROAM students originate, most get hooked on the quality of skiing in BC and Alberta, so don’t give much thought to taking their talents elsewhere. But there are a handful who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves closer to home working in eastern Canada. Yes, as a westerner I consider Ontario to be the east, even though those there may consider themselves in the heart of Canada.
This week, we look at the careers of two alumni firmly planted in Ontario, two in the Maritimes and one who has spent time in both.
Chris Beckett from the Class of 1995, learned to ski at the now defunct Logy Bay Lump just outside St. John’s Newfoundland. Finding himself somewhat uncommitted to his first semester at university, he decided to take the winter off to be a ski instructor at Ski Martock in Nova Scotia. While in the SROAM Program, Chris says his mind was expanded to the multitude of opportunities within the ski industry. He spent a couple of years in rental/retail at Red Mountain Resort before moving to Grouse Mountain. He held a variety of positions there over six years, but most of that was as rental shop manager in the winter and overseeing tram operations in the summer.
Chris Beckett (Class of 1995) learned to ski in Newfoundland before moving west to take the SROAM Program and work at resorts in BC, including Whistler Blackcomb during the 2010 Winter Olympics. He has been general manager at Georgian Peaks Ski Club in Thornbury, Ontario since 2016.
In 2000, he took what some people may consider a bold move, going from a manager at Grouse to a supervisor at Whistler Blackcomb. He was confident in his abilities however, and over a couple of years worked his way up to become the operations manager of the multiple outlets and 300-plus employees in the rental retail division.
After the excitement of working through the 2010 Winter Olympics, he was open to new opportunities and found himself moving from coast to coast and close to home as general manager at Marble Mountain in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland. Marble Mountain is known for huge, but sometimes inconsistent, snowfalls due to a base elevation of less that 50 feet above sea level. He enjoyed the challenges of improving the financially troubled area, including replacing a chairlift that was destroyed by lightning in 2014.
Since 2016, Chris has been general manager at Georgian Peaks Ski Club in Thornbury, Ontario. Chris describes the challenges of running a private club as very different than his previous jobs. The members are well-heeled, passionate people with high expectations. He also reports to a board of directors of extremely accomplished A-type personalities. Unlike many ski areas, Chris has big budgets to hire top talent in all aspects of the operation. Georgian also has a strong emphasis on ski racing, with several of its members reaching the Canadian national team.
Everyone loves Newfoundland stories, so here’s another one. Richard Wells (Class of 2010) grew up in Cornerbrook and started skiing at Marble Mountain at the age of two and working there at 16. Before coming to SROAM, Richard earned a diploma in Adventure Tourism from College of the North Atlantic. He completed his SROAM workterm at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort as administrator of snow school and ticket sales.
Richard Wells (Class of 2010) grew up Cornerbrook, Newfoundland and returned to the east coast after graduation from Selkirk College. He is currently inside operations manager at Marble Mountain, the same place he learned to ski when he was two.
After graduating from Selkirk College, he returned to Newfoundland and worked as an adventure guide and ski patroller before taking on the role of sales, marketing and events manager at Marble. He is currently inside operations manager.
Richard says climate change is taking its toll on Marble with the January opening dates becoming the norm. This year, their first day open was a rather scary March 4! Obviously, Richard is concerned about the long-term future of Marble if that trend continues.
Next, we head a little further west to Sussex, New Brunswick and find John McNair (Class of 2004). In his first few years after graduation John worked as rental shop manager at Crabbe Mountain and then as marketing manager for Poley Mountain. During that time, he started a side job of doing bike repairs, not realizing that it would evolve into the opening of a very successful retail store, Outdoor Elements. His first store was only 300 square feet, but soon upgraded to a 1,200 square foot space. Unfortunately, that store burnt down in 2012 leaving John with the question of whether to rebuild of move onto something new.
John McNair (Class of 2004) worked directly in the industry after graduation, but he eventually opened Outdoor Elements in his hometown of Sussex, New Brunswick where his shop is a full-service all-season outfitter. He stays active in the ski industry, sitting on the Poley Mountain board of directors.
He spent the next year back at Poley Mountain before deciding to reopen a bigger and better Outdoor Elements store. It is now a full-service outfitter of all things skiing, biking and hiking, including rentals and clothing. John has also opened summer seasonal outlets offering bike rentals, boat rentals and tours in Fundy National Park. Outdoor Elements is extremely community minded, supporting many local events and activities. John has also served on the Poley Mountain board of directors for six years and is currently vice chair.
When I asked John about how the SROAM Program has helped him in his career, he had an answer I have never heard before, stating he: “greatly valued the experience of the education.” He feels his experience at Selkirk College trained him to do the best he can in whatever task is before him and to pay attention to the details.
Continuing west, Ryan Arthur (Class of 2001) got his start in the business at 13-years-old at Georgian Peaks in Thornbury. Growing up on an apple farm, he learned early how to operate equipment and was working as a groomer operator before he was old enough to drive. He laughed that his dad had to drive him to work for that job.
Ryan Arthur (Class of 2001) runs a family apple and tree farm in Ontario, but in the winter keeps busy running the snowcats at Beaver Valley Ski Club where he is considered a master in the craft.
Ryan had a couple of years of university in civil engineering before attending SROAM. The combination led him to work on several a ski area construction projects at various Ontario resorts from snowmaking system and infrastructure installations to building ski lifts for Leitner Poma.
He runs his family apple and tree farms, which gives him plenty of opportunity to continue his love of working with snow cats all winter. He has now been grooming at Beaver Valley Ski Club for 13 seasons and is considered a master in terrain park building, but now prefers operating the winch cat. In his spare time, he enjoys racing snowmobiles.
To meet Marty Thody (Class of 1993), we need to head south to Boler Mountain in London, Ontario, the southernmost ski area in Canada. As a kid, Marty was more interested in hockey than skiing, but in Grade 9 he got hooked on skiing and started working at what was the London Ski Club. He started in lifts, moving onto snowmaking and then grooming and some 34 years later is director of operations.
Marty Thody (Class of 1993) has been instrumental in the recent success of Boler Mountain in London, Ontario. The proud alumnus is also very involved in the overall industry, currently sitting as the chair of the Ontario Snow Resorts Association.
London Ski Club started as a not-for-profit in 1946 and in Marty’s early years there, it struggled with aging infrastructure and limited revenues and therefore had a very questionable future. Marty says he ended up back there after SROAM because they needed his help. They changed the name from London Ski Club to Boler Mountain and over the next decade started to recruit some very committed and talented people to both the operation and the board of directors.
According to Marty, they have replaced virtually everything from lodge to lifts piece by piece over many years and he is proud now that entire facility is in first-class condition. They enjoy annual revenues of about $6.5 million, offer the community a wide variety of summer and winter programming, and very affordable skiing with adult tickets as low as $37 midweek.
It is heartwarming to know that SROAM graduates have been so instrumental in the development of such success stories. Marty is currently the chair of the Ontario Snow Resorts Association. He has also been one of the program’s top recruiters, sending us numerous students over the years which will ensure his legacy in the industry will live on for decades. This year, we have Boler Mountain alumni Sean Nash and Jordan Kussman completing their workterms at Vista Ridge and Revelstoke Mountain Resort, respectively.
With the closure of Georgian College’s Ski Resort Operations Program a few years ago, SROAM at Selkirk College is Canada’s only such program. The ski industry in the east is thriving with many opportunities for ski industry professionals. I suspect this will result in many more SROAMies finding themselves heading that direction in the coming years.
Check back in next time when I will be highlighting some interesting ski industry careers, outside of resorts.
Working in Heli/Cat Heaven
If the pinnacle of the ski experience is heli and cat skiing, does that make working in that sector the ultimate ski industry job? This week I talked to SROAMies who are stoked on making their living this way. The mechanized and backcountry side of the ski industry has seen tremendous growth in the past two decades, especially in smaller operations. This growth has created some awesome opportunities for SROAM Program grads.
For most people working in the heli/cat side of the business, it is a winter-only gig. The same goes for many of those working in snow school, ski patrol, grooming etc. or those at resorts without summer operations. There are thousands of these people throughout the industry who have carved out some amazing lifestyles living in mountain towns alternating between summer and winter occupations.
Greg Barnes from the class of 2002, who grew up in Kitchener Ontario, is one such example. He had some experience and talents in food & beverage that he put to work at Grouse Mountain and then Whistler for a few years after leaving Selkirk College. Like many people, he enjoyed Whistler while he was there, but it wasn’t where he wanted to be long term.
Greg Barnes (Class of 2002) grew up in Ontario and moved west where he attended the Nelson-based SROAM Program. After working at Grouse Mountain and Whistler, he found his way back to the Kootenays and for the last 15 years has been working at Island Lake Lodge in Fernie as a as a waiter, bartender, cat driver and now a tail guide.
Knowing Greg as a low-key, down-to-earth guy, Island Lake Lodge in Fernie seems like a perfect fit. He has been there over 15 years, having worked as a waiter, bartender, cat driver and now a tail guide for the past 10. He gets about 65 days each winter of paid powder skiing. He feels very fortunate to be one of the minority of ski guides with a short enough commute that he can be home every night, especially now that he has a one-year-old son. The rest of the year he makes his living as a self-employed carpenter and loves the variety of his two-occupation lifestyle. A scroll though his Facebook pictures shows that he takes full advantage of virtually all the outdoor recreational activities the Kootenays have to offer.
In contrast, Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing represents the other end of the mechanized skiing spectrum with more than 1.5 million acres of terrain.
Jordan Stiefvater (Class of 2007) and Jason Martin (2008) both started at Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing on their SROAM work-terms in a guide apprentice program. That season gave them the opportunity to prove themselves and their potential. They passed with flying colors and have fast-tracked up the hierarchy to become two of the youngest senior lead guides. They are both level 3 CSGA, Canadian Ski Guide Association, certified and Jason now teaches level 1 and 2 courses. They credit the incredible training and safety culture at Mike Wiegele and the opportunity to be mentored by several leading industry veterans, including Mike himself.
Jordan Stiefvater (Class of 2007) and Jason Martin (Class of 2008) have both fast-tracked up the Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing hierarchy to become two of the youngest senior lead guides.
The early years were challenging with so much to learn, including catering to guests who are incredibly wealthy with high expectations for every aspect of their experience, but they joked that now they are pretty much given the keys to the helicopter and a lot of autonomy on where to ski. It’s pretty cool to look out the window of the helicopter and say, “let’s go ski there,” says Jason. Jordan stated that “you need to be in it for the long haul to make it worthwhile.” When first working as a tail guide with little seniority, the work was a little sparse. But as lead guides, they get 16-18 weeks of lucrative work each winter. They both described their work as being incredibly rewarding with every day being different and so many variables to consider in giving the guests the ultimate experience without any compromise on safety.
In the off-season Jordan runs his own business as a certified glazier in his hometown of Courtney/Comox. Jason returns to his home of Vernon and supervises the bike trail crew at Silver Star Mountain.
Jordan Stiefvater (Class of 2007) says the early years at Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing were challenging with so much to learn, but jokes that now they are pretty much given the keys to the helicopter and a lot of autonomy on where to ski.
Sorry to interject a little personal side story here, but I find it amusing. Did I ever tell you about the time Kiefer Sutherland stole my seat on the helicopter? I was visiting Jason while on his work-term. As a guest at MW, I was put on a stand-by list for skiing, if a seat was available. Having a few beers with Jordan in the bar the previous night, I noticed Kiefer Sutherland was there with his crew from the show 24. They were partying which I thought may bode well for an empty seat for me the next day.
It is like a movie scene when all of the helicopters arrive in-formation in the morning to pick up the skiers. As I was chatting with Jordan, each helicopter filled up and took off until there was one left. The skiers started to load and counting them, it seemed they were a couple of people short of being full. I asked Jordan to check if there may be a seat for me. He came back and said, “no, more people are on their way.” I then saw Kiefer and his buddy dragging themselves and their skis towards the helicopter. No skiing for me that day, but a story that I have squeezed a lot of mileage out of.
Baldface Lodge, host venue of multiple Red Bull events, is just outside Nelson and has been such a popular place for our graduates to work that I can’t possibly highlight them all individually in the scope of this story. There are currently five who have been there for many years and several more who have worked a couple of seasons.
I contacted Baldface owner Jeff Pensiero for some insight on the value the SROAMies have brought the business and he was quick to praise their contributions. He emphasized their understanding of how all aspects of a resort work together to create a first-class and safe experience for guests.
One of the world’s best known catski operations, Baldface Lodge just outside of Nelson has added many SROAM Program grads to its roster of outstanding employees. Long term SROAMies currently at Baldface currently include: lead guide Brad McBeath (2001), tail guide Devon Smith (2009), cat driver Joel Comely (2010), cat driver Layton O’Dwyer (2011) and bartender Nicholas Christian (2014). You can spot all of them (except Layton) in this staff photo at the lodge.
Baldface has created an incredible family-like culture that has resulted in very low staff turnover. This means that students wanting to get in, often need to start at the entry level job of “Inside Homey,” which involves many hours in the dish pit. I have often been impressed with student’s willingness to accept this job, trusting that hard work and the right attitude will pay off. Jeff says the SROAMies “are fun to work with because they love what they do, and they love where they do it, and it shows!” He also appreciates their inquisitive nature and desire to learn.
The long term SROAMies currently at Baldface include: lead guide Brad McBeath (2001), tail guide Devon Smith (2009), cat driver Joel Comely (2010), cat driver Layton O’Dwyer (2011) and bartender Nicholas Christian (2014).
With the team culture, it seems job descriptions are only guidelines; everyone pitches in to get things done. A student working the inside homey job a couple of years ago said it was not uncommon for Joel and other more senior staff to jump in and help cleaning up the kitchen, often brining him a beer as well.
One way to get year-round work in this side of the industry is to own your own business. Phil and Kay Pinfold from the class of 2005 did just that, buying Retallack along with some partners in 2007. Phil says he came to the SROAM Program hoping to find a big opportunity. Retallack, a snowcat operation with incredible snow and terrain located about an hour north of Nelson, was struggling financially at the time and looking for a manager that could potentially buy in.
Seen here with their son Jackson, Phil and Kay Pinfold (Class of 2005) got together some partners and bought Retallack in 2007. Through enthusiastic determination and love of place, the Penfolds have helped turn the location into a year-round operation that has built incredible buzz in the industry.
Phil and Kay committed to one season, but quickly saw amazing potential in the business and put the pieces together to facilitate the purchase. In their first decade, they grew from hosting only 342 skier days to 2,700 and about half that number of mountain bike guests in summer.
Working with very limited budgets in the early years, innovative marketing strategies were needed. They brought in high-profile pro skiers Tanner Hall and Seth Morrison, and industry heavyweights as minor share holders, which resulted in almost immediate international recognition. This led to them hosting Red Bull Cold Rush events, filming of top ski movies, and receiving a 2009 ranking as the “Best Cat or Heliskiing Operation in the World” by Freeskier Magazine.
They have also built the world’s largest backcountry mountain bike operation, using both helicopters and all-terrain military vehicles for uphill transportation. Now some of the world’s best skiers and riders are amongst Retallack’s regular guests. These are truly amazing accomplishments in a few years. Phil and his other managing partner Chris have had a strong vision of what they are building and a great deal of confidence and persistence to make it a reality. Phil also gives a lot of credit to his dedicated team at Retallack and many strong relationships with external partners.
Another Ontario transplant, Ben Whitton (2018) is also living the Kootenay powder dream just a few years after graduation. He earned a BA in Kinesiology, but by the time he graduated realized he didn’t have the passion for it. He did, however, have a passion for snowboarding and figured there had to be a way to devote that passion towards a career.
It was during a SROAM field trip to Selkirk Snowcat Skiing that he had his “a-ha” moment and realized that was the kind of place for him. The following year, Ben completed his SROAM work term at Snowwater Heliskiing and its sister operation Valhalla Powder Cats. He was the front office guy who checked in the guests, got the waivers signed, sold logo wear, worked dispatch, and cleaned the washrooms. He wasn’t sure how much potential there was to grow from that position, but was keen to learn and take on as much responsibility as they were willing to give him. His development and mentorship under owners Patric and Maria started almost immediately.
Originally from Ontario, Ben Whitton (Class of 2018) is living the Kootenay powder dream just a few years after graduation. Excited and motivated by the ability to learn on the job, Ben has made a big impact with both Snowwater Heliskiing in a very short period of time.
Snowwater had been working on a crown land tenure application to build a rally track at their alpine lodge in the Bonnington Range of the Selkirk Mountains. Ben had some spare time in his normal day, so started working on that application. Before long, it became his project. The application was approved and he worked himself into a summer job of coordinating its construction as well as other summer construction projects. He admits he had little experience in these areas, but had a clear understanding of what he knew, what he didn’t and wasn’t shy about asking for direction when needed. “The whole process was an amazing learning experience,” says Ben.
When Patric and Maria decided they may want to sell the Valhalla portion of the business to focus 100 per cent on Snowwater, Ben was given the task of negotiating the sale to Baldface Lodge. Another huge learning opportunity which he was happy to take on.
Ben proved to be extremely skilled with guest relations, teamwork, problem solving and logistics which are all so essential in this business. When I asked him to describe his progress through various jobs, he admitted that his job titles rarely described accurately what he did. He just kept taking on more and more responsibilities. Now in his fourth year, he oversees most of the operation other than guiding.
Ben is simply ecstatic with his life. He has a job he loves that challenges him daily. He was able to buy a house close to work with his Kootenay-born girlfriend Katie. He keeps his sled in the back of his truck and uses it to commute up to the Snowwater lodge. On days off he is skiing Whitewater, sled-touring or mountain biking. His transition to Kootenay life was completed when he adopted his dog Everest.
I wasn’t able to reach 1992 grad Carole Karafil for this story, but felt it would be incomplete without at least a mention. She and her husband Brad are owners of White Grizzly Cat Skiing in Meadow Creek. Two of my best days skiing days ever were at White Grizzly and Retallack. The skiing, the terrain, the whole experience at these places is truly world class.
In our next story of SROAM successes we will feature graduates who have taken their skills back to Eastern Canada.
SROAMies From Around the Globe
If there is such thing as a “typical” SROAM Program student, I would describe them as a 19 to 22-year-old Canadian, most likely from Ontario, with a few years of ski industry experience. But, in the past 15 years there have been a growing number of international students. In recent years, as much of one-third of the class is comprised of students from beyond Canadian borders. On average they are a little older and have a little more education, but often less direct ski industry experience. Their stories before and after the SROAM Program are incredibly diverse. We have had a 17-year-old from the Ukraine and a 40-year-old Brazilian with a law degree and an MBA.
I have had the pleasure of teaching students from countries you may expect, such as the United States, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, but they have also arrived from less likely origins of South Africa, Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, Russia, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Japan and China. Many come with hopes of staying in Canada, others have planned to return home. Upon graduation international students are normally eligible for a three-year work permit. This is often enough time for them to earn enough points for permanent residency.
I wasn’t aware that there are actually ski areas in South Africa, but growing up in Johannesburg SROAMie Mara Trichardt (Class of 2015) had never been to one or even seen snow before her desire to see the world led her to Vail, Colorado working as a lift operator. She admits she didn’t love snowboarding when she first tried it, but soon found she could link turns with some speed and confidence. She became hooked. Mara spent another season working in retail at Copper Mountain and after returning home realized how much she loved the snow and the ski industry. Mara found the SROAM Program and saw it as a ticket to extend her adventure.
Orignially from Johannesburg, South Africa, Mara Trichardt is currently food and beverage manager at Cypress Mountainin Vancouver where she oversees more than 150 employees.
A bit of a city girl, she opted to spend her workterm at Cypress Mountain on Vancouver’s North Shore as a guest Services & Ticket Office Supervisor where she was described to me as a “superstar” by a friend in senior management there. The following season, she moved to the F&B Department and worked her way into the food and beverage manager role. She now oversees up to 150 employees in four outlets with annual revenues of more than $4 million. Staffing schedules span about 16 hours each day.
Having spent 10 years working at Cypress, I am very familiar with the challenges of managing huge swings in business volumes. It is not unusual for Cypress to be closed for a day or two mid-season when monsoon weather hits and then see near record crowds a few days later with the return of incredible snow and weather. Mara takes this all in stride with a smile and thrives on the adrenaline of such challenges.
Tim Stent (2009) hails from Huntingdon, UK. His adventurous career as a groomer operator has included work in seven countries on four continents, working many nights by the light of both the northern and southern aurora borealis.
Tim spent a couple of seasons in F&B in Lake Louise and Treble Cone, New Zealand before attending SROAM. He didn’t have a clear career path in mind when he arrived in Nelson, just that he wanted to move from F&B to outdoor operations. He had a few offers for jobs on his workterm, but chose Sun Peaks because his boss there, also a SROAMie, was the only one willing to give him a week off mid-season to attend his brother’s wedding. He started in snow making, moving quickly into grooming. Tim says he could have quite happily spent many years at Sun Peaks, but when his work visas expired, he was invited to leave the country. He was disappointed at the time, but now says it was the best thing as that set him on his amazing journey.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Tim Stent has traveled the world grooming runs at an incredible diversity of resorts.
The next several years saw him moving twice a year between hemispheres working at Mount Hotham (Australia), many seasons at Whakapapa (New Zealand), Caingorm Mountain (Scotland), Sirdal (Norway), Salen (Sweden) and Bjorkliden (Sweden), which is above the artic circle. Tim’s talents in a snowcat got him a pretty cool gig working at the Antartica operating snowcats, bulldozers and cranes. Having had more than his share of jet-lag he has now settled down as a permanent resident in the idyllic ski town of Funasdalen, Sweden.
Taro (2004) originates from Japan but has called Whistler home for 15 years. It is often said that people need a couple of jobs to make ends meet in Whistler, Taro seems to have five or six going at any given time. While working for Whistler Heli-skiing, he created his own tour company which started by bringing Japanese skiers and tourists to BC. It has evolved in many directions from there, including hosting Japanese media as the Sea to Sky representative for Tourism BC Japan. He has done extensive photography and journalism, including much work for Delta Airlines. His diversity of jobs range from doing medical interpretation for injured Japanese skiers to designing websites. He also works with ACMG, (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides), hosting Canadian skiers in Japan which he describes a growing market.
Taro graduated from the SROAM Program in 2004 and instead of returning to his native Japan, he has carved out a multi-faceted career in Whistler over the last 15 years.
Taro is an accomplished backcountry skier with some impressive multi-day trips under his belt, the pinnacle being a nine-day, 111 kilometre trip from the Bugaboos to Rodgers Pass. Taro’s favorite job is teaching AST (Avalanche Skills Training) courses to Japanese skiers visiting Whistler.
Just to keep things spicy and trying something new, Taro is currently on a contract with Skyline Ziplines to build the world’s second longest zipline at Hanazono Resort in Niseko, Japan. It is a little $4 million project for which Taro describes himself as the “fixer.”
It will be interesting to revisit Taro’s resume on the 50th SROAM anniversary.
Just four years ago, in his early -30s, Cicero Gouvea (2021) was sitting in his downtown Rio de Janeiro office of IBM dreaming of snowboarding. His job leading a team of business analysts was challenging and rewarding, but he was thousands of miles away from the nearest ski area which left him wanting more. Could he somehow convert his skills into an equally rewarding career in the ski industry? Or was that dream a little too wild? How would someone living in a country with no skiing make that transition?
A member of the upcoming Class of 2021, Cicero Gouvea has already lauched a promising career in the industry where is currently working in Fernie as the accounting manager.
It seems Cicero found the recipe needed to make the dream come true. Start with the courage to leave everything behind and move half-way around the world, add in the SROAM Program and a lot of hard work with a little luck and presto! His office at Fernie Alpine Resort is now a one-minute walk from the ski lifts. No need to dream, plan trip logistics, book vacation time and flights, he can now just pick his board and go shred the legendary Fernie powder with about as much effort as getting a cup of coffee at his old job.
Cicero landed the job of accounting manager at Fernie and he hasn’t even graduated yet. It is rare that students secure that level of job for their workterm, but it sure is special when it works out that way. Being a new manager, he puts in a lot of hours but has the flexibility to get on his board for a couple hours in the morning and make up his time after the ski area closes. He says he rarely misses out on a powder day and feels like he has won the lottery. His hard work actually did have a financial pay-off when he received one of the two Fred Bosinger Sunshine Village Scholarships for top academic standing in the class.
These are just a few of the great stories from our international graduates. There was a couple more I was hoping to include, but wasn’t able to pin down interviews in time. I will be highlighting more in the coming weeks.
Big Heroes in Small Areas
When most people think of the ski industry, large destination resorts like Whistler Blackcomb and Sunshine Village often come to mind, or possibly more regional areas like Fernie or Mount Washington. But what about the little guys? Those small community-based hills where so many of us first learned to ski. Those one T-bar areas run by non-profit societies and volunteer boards of directors. The ones that many of us have never heard of, but are so precious to the skiers in the small communities they serve.
In this week’s story we will look at a few of those areas that SROAM graduates have been instrumental in keeping alive through growing challenges from rising operations, labor and insurance costs, increasingly demanding regulations, deteriorating infrastructure, and volunteer burn-out.
The Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) has long recognized the value of these areas to the larger industry. They are essential to creating a steady stream of new skiers. The CWSAA has been concerned by a trend of more and more of them shutting down in the past few decades. In the last story, we heard about the “Canada West Way.” In keeping with that mantra, they have created the Small Ski Area Fund that subsidizes attendance at industry educational conferences. The large areas also regularly support the community hills by donating used uniforms or rental equipment, giving them a screaming deal on a used snow cat, or lending expertise in maintenance.
One of the primary challenges for these small areas is to hire people with sufficient ski industry experience and/or to train their existing staff and directors. The SROAM Program has produced several graduates who have brought much-needed knowledge and an amazing level of commitment to some of these small areas.
Rob Stevens (Class of 1997), affectionately known by many people as Turtle, has been entwined with Summit Lake Ski and Snowboard Area near Nakusp for almost 60 years. His father was president/VP for about eight years and his mother ran the concession for more than 20. They also owned a sports/rental shop that got Rob working in the business at a young age and he was a ski instructor throughout high school.
Rob Stevens graduated from the SROAM Program in 1997 and has been a pillar of small resort spirit since he was a youngster.
Since then, his career has been somewhat of a fluid blend in forestry work and the ski industry. He has always kept Nakusp as home base, even though his work was often elsewhere. After graduating from SROAM, he spent more than a decade at Sun Peaks Resort. Much of that time was as lift operations manager, but he did numerous other jobs including working for Doppelmayr installing a new chair lift. Rob also worked for Summit lifts for several years doing lift installations and maintenance.
It is an understatement to say that all his experience has been incredibly valuable to Summit Lake. Whenever Rob has been home in Nakusp, he has been committed to helping the area survive and thrive. He has had a couple of stints as general manager, but has spent much more time as a volunteer board member doing whatever needs to be done from turning wrenches on the T-bar and snow cat to grooming the slopes.
Rob expressed concerns about the future of Summit Lake and the many other small areas like it. They are all highly dependant on grants, subsidies and/or corporate sponsorship and lots of volunteerism to make ends meet. Summit will need a new haul rope for their T-bar and cannot generate enough revenue from normal operations to pay for such expenses. Insurance has become unaffordable and is now covered by a small surcharge on property taxes in the area.
All these small ski areas exist to keep skiing available and affordable for everyone in their communities. The average price of an adult lift ticket at these little gems is about $40. With major resorts now averaging over $120/day, skiing would be financially out of reach for many people if not for the small community hills.
Similar to Rob, Dan Goff (2003) has been incredibly committed to his hometown hill of Murray Ridge Ski Area in Fort St. James, starting as a ski instructor while in Grade 10 and the managing the ski shop after graduating. After attending Selkirk College, Dan spent three years at Panorama Resort, primarily as guest services and ticket office supervisor. Love took him back to Fort St. James and he was asked to take on the GM role at Murray Ridge. Dan credits the SROAM Program with providing him with knowledge, confidence, credibility and strong industry contacts. His summer job with BC Wildfire turned into year-round work, so his role at the ski area went from paid GM to volunteer president, a role he has held for almost nine years.
Though SROAM alumnus Dan Goff (right) now works year-round for the BC Wildfire Service, he continues to volunteer to help make Murray Ridge in Fort St. James a reality for northern outdoor enthusiasts.
Murray Ridge seems to be little more financially stable than most of the other small areas, But, being humble, Dan didn’t take any credit for that. He cited very strong corporate sponsorship from local businesses and some large grants for keeping their infrastructure and equipment reasonably current. They boast the longest T-bar in North America, a large comfortable daylodge and surprisingly diverse terrain for a small area. Dan is clearly proud that they can offer a quality ski experience at an affordable price to the surrounding community.
Another fabulous little Kootenay gem is Phoenix Mountain near Grand Forks. They label themselves as “the best little mountain in BC,” but I suspect Rob and Dan might dispute that. It has always been a favorite stop for me on field trips so students can experience the full spectrum of the industry from the little guys to Whistler Blackcomb. Like Summit Lake, it struggles financially but has provided a fabulous training ground for a couple of our star SROAMies.
I recall getting a phone call from the volunteer president in 2006 looking for a student or graduate to fill the job of ski area manager. They could only offer a five-month contract at a modest wage, so finding someone with the desired experience willing to relocate was proving difficult. Second-year student Christian Theberge (2007) was looking for an opportunity to put his experience and schooling to work and jumped at the opportunity doing an amazing job for four years. Christian has moved on to bigger things in the industry and will be featured in a future story, so I won’t elaborate on his time at Phoenix at this time.
Christian Theberge (second from right) took a job at Phoenix Mountain straight out of Selkirk College. Though he has moved on, he had four strong years at the small resort that dubs itself "the best little mountain in BC."
When it was time for him to move on, we got another call from Phoenix wondering if we had another Christian. We didn’t have a Christian, but we had a Chris which is pretty close. Chris Nason (2011) was a young and very bright student with mechanical aptitude and some good operations and maintenance experience at Canyon Ski Area in his hometown of Red Deer. He had no management experience and knew it was going to be a challenge, but with his fresh education he thought he was ready. They gave him a chance and it proved to be highly successful for both parties as Chris stayed in the manager role for six years and continues to offer significant help when he can. He was so committed to Phoenix, he even married one of the directors’ daughters.
Now a lift mechanic at Apex Mountain, Chris Nason spent six years at Phoenix Mountain after graduating from the SROAM Program in 2011.
Chris is now a lift mechanic at Apex Mountain having just completed his millwright apprenticeship. This ticket, his management experience at Phoenix and a SROAM diploma have set this young man up with fabulous potential for rewarding career in ski area management.
Speaking of young men, 22-year-old Etienne Shaffert (2018) is quite possibly the youngest ski area general manager in the country. At 14, he started working as a rental technician at his home hill of Misery Mountain in Peace River, Alberta. Arriving in the SROAM Program at only 17, he was as committed and motivated as anyone and had his eyes on the prize of managing a ski resort. He returned to Misery for his workterm as assistant manager and progressed to the GM role the following year overseeing a staff of 45. Etienne says he uses something from his SROAM education every day, whether it be human resources, risk management, lifts, snowmaking, marketing or financial management.
Entering the SROAM Program at 17, Etienne Shaffert continues to display his passion at Misery Mountain in Peace River where he is the GM at only 22.
Misery Mountain is unique from the other small ski areas in a few distinct ways. It was originally built and operated by a non-profit society with only a T-bar, but when they wanted to add a chair, the town of Peace River agreed to build and maintain the chair in exchange for ownership of the assets. The society is now responsible for covering all costs other than lift maintenance from their revenue. In 2005, Peace River hosted the Alberta Winter Games which resulted in Misery getting a new 9,000 square foot daylodge. Etienne says he sees opportunity for business growth hosting weddings and meetings, and is currently working on plan to add lift serviced mountain biking.
I think these stories really show the symbiotic relationship between SROAM students and small ski areas. Young graduates benefit greatly from the opportunity to take on broad responsibilities that they would never get early in their careers at larger resorts. The ski areas get the benefit of highly committed people who have training and experience that would otherwise be unavailable them. That is a big win-win that I feel grateful to have played a small part in.
Next up… some fascinating stories about our international students.
The Canada West Way: A Culture of Cooperation and Collaboration
In this story, we highlight the careers of some of our most prestigious graduates who have become icons in the ski industry. There are so many to choose from, so I have narrowed the field by selecting from those who have held positions on the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) Board of Directors. The CSWAA membership includes virtually every ski area in Western Canada, plus some in the east and around the world. There are also more than 150 associate members who are suppliers to the industry.
SROAM alumni and builders featured include (clockwise from top left): Dorothy Gould, Jason Paterson, Jimmie Spencer, Tim Foster, Steve Paccagnan and John Shea.
The SROAM Program has always had a close relationship with the CWSAA, largely due to Jimmie Spencer OBC who was president of the association for 32 years. He was instrumental in the creation of the program and was our biggest cheerleader. Under his direction, CSWAA created an endowment that provide four scholarships annually of approximately $800 to top academic students in perpetuity.
I can’t begin to paint a full picture of Jimmie’s influence on the program. In recognition of Jimmie’s vital support, he was the recipient of an honorary SROAM diploma, the first ever awarded by Selkirk College. Jimmie retired from the Association at the tender age of 85. Sadly, he passed away in 2018 but his support for the ski industry lives on in both the CWSAA and the SROAM program.
One of Jimmie’s legacies is often referred to as “the Canada West Way,” which is an incredible culture of cooperation and collaboration amongst the members and associate members. The SROAM Program is proud of the graduates who have been recognized as leaders in building that culture by holding seats on the Board of Directors. All graduates in this story cited this culture as a primary motivator for staying in the industry.
I’m going to start with the career of my dear friend Dorothy Gould who was my classmate in the SROAM class of 1984. When the associate member seat on the Board of Directors came open last year, Dorothy was the obvious choice and she feels very honored to be selected by her peers.
Dorothy’s diverse 35-plus year career has included working at Whistler Mountain, Sunshine Village twice, Mount St. Louis Moonstone, Lake Louise, Leitner-Poma, Inter-Mountain Enterprises, and now at Rigging Specialties/Rocky Mountain Lift Services in Canmore. These jobs provided Dorothy the opportunity to use and develop her strong administrative skills and exceptional knowledge of ski area operations and maintenance. Her current role is largely sales and administration, but she claims her favorite task is driving the forklift. She loves living in the Bow Valley and ripping it up on the ski hill regularly.
Jason Paterson (Class of 1996) took a unique career path to reach his current position of President and CEO of Marmot Basin in Jasper. Upon graduating high school in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Jason worked in lift operations and maintenance at Night Hawk Recreation Area. While in the SROAM Program, he was introduced to the CWSAA and was keen to be a part of it. He spent a few years working at Snow Valley Edmonton in the winter and the Jasper Tramway in the summer before returning to Night Hawk as the general manager.
Jason Paterson was a member of the SROAM Class of 1996 and is currently the President & CEO at Marmot Basin in Jasper.
An ambitious man, Jason earned his MBA and then got distracted from the ski industry for about 10 years working for the Government of Canada. But skiing and the ski industry was always in his heart and he started to look for a path back in. That opportunity came when Marmot Basin was recruiting for a Vice President of Operations. Jason applied without high hopes of being selected, but got the job and a few years later he was promoted to President and CEO. Jason has been on the CWSAA board since 2015 and is currently the Chair of the Alberta/Saskatchewan/Manitoba Division.
Of all the SROAM grads in this story, John Shea (1983) took by far the straightest path to the top. He started his career as a staff bus driver at Lake Louise Ski Area and stayed there for decades, climbing the ladder one or two rungs at a time until reaching the position of General Manager. From Lake Louise, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) was formed and started acquiring ski areas including Nakiska, Fernie, Kimberley, and Mount Ste. Anne and Stoneham in Quebec, with Kicking Horse Mountain Resort being added in 2011.
John found himself moving to the RCR head office in Calgary as Vice President of Sales & Marketing, while keeping his weekend job of GM at Lake Louise. In 2008, Lake Louise left the RCR group but John stayed and took on the role President and Chief Resorts Officer overseeing all six ski areas and other tourism properties. John served on the CWSAA Board from 2002 to 2006. If there were a competition for King of the SROAMie Castle, I think John would take the prize.
I have often advised SROAM students of the value in being willing to relocate to take advantage of advancement opportunities. Tim Foster (1990) is a classic example of that. Growing up in Calgary, he began his career a ski instructor at Wintergreen. For his SROAM work term he was hired to help open the brand-new ski area of Shames Mountain in Terrace. He was able to get his hands into every aspect of the operation, solve problems and make a difference. He loves taking on projects and credits his ability to build relationships as a key to his success.
After six years at Shames, he held department management positions at Grouse Mountain and Hidden Valley Alberta, before taking on the General Manager role at Mount Baldy which lead to his appointment to the CWSAA board. Then, after several years running Beaver Valley, a private ski club in Ontario, he jumped at the opportunity to return to BC as GM at Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, considered by many to be one of the world’s best ski resorts. Tim is now loving his job as Chief of Mountain Operations at Sun Peaks Resort and doesn’t have any desire to move again. Tim has also been a long-term member of the SROAM Program Advisory Committee which meets annually to keep the curriculum current and relevant to industry needs.
If the SROAM program had a poster child, it would be Steve Paccagnan (1988). Steve and I first met and became friends while both working at Panorama Resort 1985. He started as a houseman, which included cleaning the president’s office. Thirty-six years later, he is the President and CEO of Panorama. His career path has been rather dynamic. His early years at Grouse Mountain, Kawaba Japan and Apex Mountain prepared him to take on his first GM role at Mount Baldy, which was on the verge of collapse at the time. He was then recruited by Intrawest to run, transform and sell Mount Ste. Marie in Quebec before he could speak any French.
Currently the President and CEO of Panorama Resort in the East Kootenay, Steve Paccagnan's contribution to the industry was recognized in 2017 when he was honoured with the Selkirk College Distinguished Alumni Award at the annual Convocation at the Castlegar Campus. Steve posed for a photo with his family after the cermony.
Still working for Intrawest, he was moved back to Panorama as Director of Lodging before they shuffled him again to be VP and GM at Copper Mountain in Colorado. Somewhere in there, he also found the time to gain an MBA. Steve took the opportunity to move back to Canada as GM of Kicking Horse. There he completed a master plan that resulted in the sale of the resort to Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. It was then time for him to return “home” to Panorama for the fourth time, now as President and CEO.
Steve recently completed an unprecedented 12 years on the CWSAA board, including four years as Chair of the Board. Steve has also been a huge supporter of the SROAM Program serving many years on the Program Advisory Committee, and has hired and mentored many students. In recognition of his outstanding accomplishments, Steve received the Selkirk College Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2017. Only in his mid-fifties and as feisty as ever, we have to wonder what else he will achieve before he winds down his career.
While the SROAM Program cannot claim full responsibility for the success of these and other superstars, it did provide each of them with a solid foundation to build upon and the confidence to believe they could establish such amazing careers in this fabulous industry.
SROAMies Building the Nelson Ski Town Vibe
This edition of Tales of SROAM Success features iconic grads who have become local legends in the program’s home base of Nelson. There’s a tendency for SROAMies who come from afar to fall in love with Kootenay life and stay for good.
Today, we focus on those who have stayed in, or close to, the ski industry and are well known faces in downtown Nelson. These are just a few of the 60-plus SROAM graduates that call Nelson home. Some will be featured in future stories.
With strong ties to the SROAM Program both learning and teaching, the crew at Nelson's Village Ski Hut packs a hefty dose of industry knowledge and customer service excellence. The team includes (L-R) Ben Greenland, Heather Renwick and Ian McAdams.
Starting with the exception to the rule, Heather (Sproul) Renwick (Class of 2007) is one of the rare SROAMies who is a born-and-raised Nelsonite. She had already been working at Village Ski Hut prior to SROAM. After completing her work term at the shop, she quickly realized her passion for retail and made a plan to become a partner in the business with Ian McAdams. Ian has been Heather's mentor from the start. As a pillar in the industry since the early-80s, Ian was hired on to teach the Rental/Retail Course for the first eight years of the program.
Ben Greenland (2011) joined the Village Ski Hut team after a few years in the rental shop at Whitewater. Ben was destined for this career as he started working early in his father’s ski rental business in his hometown of McCall, Idaho and working at both Brundadge Mountain and Tamarack Resort before coming to Selkirk College. Ben is one of many international students who has been able to use the SROAM Program as a pathway to permanent Canadian residency… stay tuned for future happy ending stories about other international students.
SROAM alumna Mark Weigeldt (left) and Charles Arnold (right) both spent time at ski resorts before making the move to downtown Nelson retail at Gerick Cycle & Ski.
If you venture a few blocks further down Baker Street to Gerick Cycle & Ski, you will find another couple of grads who love to set people up with the best gear. Charles Arnold (1998) and Mark Weigeldt (2003) both originally hail from Ontario, but caught the Kootenay bug and are now permanent fixtures in Nelson.
Upon graduation, Charles ran the rental shop at Whitewater for a few seasons then made the move to Gerick’s and soon became store manager. Before coming to Selkirk College, Mark had a background in ski racing and teaching. He spent a couple of years as rental/retail manager at Mount Baldy Ski Resort before deciding to make Nelson home and landing the job of service manager at Gerick. Got a technical question about ski or bike gear, Mark is your man.
Brent Malysh graduated from the SROAM Program in 2007 and worked in the industry across the world. The lure of Kootenay lifestyle brought him back and he started Backroads Brewing, a popular downtown Nelson apres-ski destination.
Of course, if you are wandering around Baker Street, you may work up a thirst and want to stop in for a beer at Backroads Brewing and meet Brent Malysh (2007). Many people know Brent from his years as snow school director at Whitewater, but his ski industry is extensive having worked in Europe, Australia, Colorado and was snow school director at both Apex Mountain and Revelstoke.
While working at Whitewater, Brent earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Entrepreneurial Management at Royal Roads University where he developed the business plan for Backroads. As a favorite watering hole for skiers and boarders, on any given day you will likely meet a few local SROAMies there.
One of Nelson's business leaders for more than 15 years, Class of 1994 SROAMie Clive Jackson brings a healthy dose of Maritime charm to Jackson's Hole & Grill.
After quenching your thirst, you might want to grab a fabulous meal at Jackson’s Hole & Grill and have a chat with Clive Jackson who graduated way back in 1994. SROAM has had several students from Nova Scotia, but Clive is one of the few from Cape Breton Island. If you listen carefully, you can hear it in his voice. He grew up skiing the slopes of Ski Ben Eion.
Clive was amongst the first group of students to complete their work term at Kawaba Ski Resort in Japan and then spent a couple of years at Silver Star Resort before returning to Kootenay powder where he opened Jackson’s Hole & Grill in 2006.
When you find yourself in downtown Nelson, be sure to stop in to see these iconic SROAMies and support their awesome businesses!