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Schools program renamed the Ride Tribe

Cost increase for students, but everyone gets ‘sessions’



After a lawsuit that cost Whistler-Blackcomb millions and several years of trying different programs, the lift company will re-launch its schools program this season as Ride Tribe Schools.

Ride Tribe Schools is based on another successful destination program for teenagers and is designed to reduce the risk for students as well as the long-term costs for liability insurance.

Graeme Leathem and Mike Redmond are running the program for Whistler-Blackcomb and Leathem said the biggest difference between Ride Tribe and W-B’s other school programs is that in the "Tribe", every student will be put into a lesson, regardless of their ability.

This approach should reduce the overall risk for most students but it’s also going to put a greater strain on W-B’s ski school and therefore, the cost for the students.

"It definitely increased our costs because we need a larger group of instructors… now we need about 40 or 50 of them, so it has effected our rates somewhat," said Leathem.

"For students the price has gone up… about $10 a head. It used to cost between $25-$50 (a day), it’s now between $35 and $60."

Despite this increase in cost, Leathem said the Ride Tribe program will be a fun and much safer way for students to experience the snow.

"Whistler-Blackcomb has had a ski program that basically evolved from Schools on Skis and Schools on Snow and it was operating really well, but then there was a lawsuit because a child got injured in the program about four years ago," said Leathem.

Leathem was referring to 17-year-old Travis Murao who became a quadriplegic after attempting a jump on a school trip at Whistler-Blackcomb in 2000. Murao was awarded $2.9 million and the judge found W-B and the Richmond school district liable for most of the damages.

"The case finally got settled two years ago and it’s really changed the liability risk that the schools face on school trips and it’s the same for anything high risk, from hiking to biking and swimming," said Leathem.

"We wanted to try and make the whole process easier so last year we decided to move the program to full day lessons.

"For all our elementary students there was always full day mandatory lessons, but for secondary students it was optional. But this year we’ve gone for full day lessons for everyone, regardless of age or ability level."

Every winter season between 230 and 240 schools visit Whistler-Blackcomb and bring with them about 13,000 students.

The kicker, for the school children, is that not all the lessons will be "lessons", particularly for the advanced skiers and snowboarders.

"All the students want to do is have fun with their friends and hang out and do whatever they want," said Leathem. "So we decided to change the whole program to be reflect the culture of snowboarding and skiing.

"We also thought about how we could revamp the concept of a lesson because students don’t want to sit there and be taught all day. We came up with the concept of a ‘session’ which is more focussed on an awesome experience than the actual instruction of how to ski and snowboard.

"So if you’re a beginner your session is going to be more about teaching you how to do it, but if you’re advanced it’s not going to be a lesson at all; it’s going to be hanging out with one of our locals and being shown around the mountain."

Interested school officials, teachers or parents should call 1-888-905-3400 and ask to speak to Mike Redmond or Leathem for more information about the Ride Tribe programs.