Thea Zerbe and Brett Trainor only launched the website for Mountain Mentors just over a week ago.
Considering they had only shared the program, which connects women over 18 in ski touring and backcountry splitboarding for the winter, and mountain biking and climbing in the summer, on their social media platforms, the response was overwhelming. As of Oct. 17, over 100 women had applied to be mentored while roughly 20 had applied to be mentors, though the pair decided to pump the brakes on the former until they could achieve more balance in the numbers.
Zerbe explained the idea grew organically after connecting women who looked to spend more time outdoors. They recently decided to formalize the mentorship process to launch the program.
"It's been really exciting for us. About two years ago, we created a very informal Facebook group for our own circle of girlfriends to organize and plan and venture outside into the mountains. It basically grew into a large network that spans the entire Sea to Sky corridor, which is now up to 300 women who we aren't even all personally acquainted with, but it's a really great interactive community," she said. "Brett and I came up with the idea to grow things from there and we came up with the idea of Mountain Mentors, which pairs women who are active in alpine sports on a one-to-one basis in a formal mentorship program."
Trainor stressed the program is designed to connect two women who would be a good fit for outdoor activity. All participants will talk before the season about the goals, agree on a plan and sign a contract before proceeding.
"They're going to respect the agreement that they decide together at the beginning of the season," Trainor explained. "In their application, there's space to say what availability they have, whether it's three times per season or twice per month so the whole matching process is geared to matching people with similar time availabilities as well as geographical locations and goals for what they want out of their relationship.
"The only role that we play as administrators is forming those pairs... We're facilitating these relationships, offering support and a space for women to come together and a space to grow the female outdoor community. We're not really offering coaching or teaching, we're just offering a space for women to connect."
Applications have come in all the way from Vancouver to Pemberton and potential mentors have had a variety of experience with some serving as Alpine Club of Canada guides or professional athletes, while some are longtime backcountry enthusiasts who go out a couple times a season and hope to pass along the activity to someone else.
Mountain Mentors is still accepting applications for mentors until the end of the month at www.mountainmentors.org.
While the program has not yet been certified as a nonprofit, it is in that process. At this point, if a member of the public would like to help out, the program is looking for sponsors for a season kickoff event at the end of November, though spreading the word to potential mentors would be welcomed as well.
"If they think of a mother or a friend or a sister or someone who they know who might be a great fit as a mentor, just encourage them to apply," Zerbe said.