Instructor’s open house a first for mountains By Paul Andrew In an effort to involve the community more in day-to-day operations, Whistler-Blackcomb will hold an open house for local skiers and snowboard instructors who might help the mountains avoid instructor burn-out during the peak periods of the ski season. Last season some 1,200 instructors were on the hills for an estimated 250,000 lesson days. As a result, the mountains had some instructors working seven days a week during peak periods, and at one point in the spring had to import instructors from Eastern Canada to deal with the demand for lessons. The open house, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at The Garibaldi Lift Co., is designed to tell locals about the benefits of teaching, and to get local skiers certified at a discount. Rob McSkimming, managing director of the Whistler-Blackcomb Ski and Snowboard School, said it’s the first time that he knows of the mountains making a concerted effort to entice locals into the fold. "Our main purpose is to find out if anyone in the community would like to become involved," McSkimming said. "It’s the first time I’m aware that we’ve done something like this. Flexibility is what we’re looking for." McSkimming said hiring clinics will take place that will certify skiers as CSIA Level 1 instructors. Those who are interested will be given a discount in addition to another day for certification. The cost, $220 for a five-day clinic, contrasts with the usual $375 for the four-day clinic. But McSkimming says it’s worth it — for both the locals and the mountains. Snowboard instructor certification will not be offered at a discount through the mountains. "Ideally we’ll have people who can ski at the intermediate to advanced level, and who know their way around the mountains but have never been certified. During the screening process, we’ll find out if they want to work full or part-time. What we want to do is have people available for the peak periods and the weekends or full-time, if that’s what they want. But if it’s a one day a week thing that’s fine too. Just as long as we can count on people to be there when it gets busy. "The reason we don’t offer a discount for snowboard instructors is because we seem to have enough of them being hired through the job fair." And as the resort business grows so does the ski school business. An additional 200-250 full-time instructing positions will be added this year, bringing the total to some 1,500 ski and snowboard instructors for 1999/2000. But because of the turnover in employees throughout the high season, McSkimming said the actual number of additional employees needed as instructors is more like 500-600. The increase in paid positions for the ski and snowboard school means that no volunteer instructors are needed for the hills. But McSkimming says that’s a good thing for potential vollies. "There will be no volunteer positions, that’s true. But if you are a paid instructor part-time or full-time, you get a season’s pass anyway. So that means you get paid and you get a season’s pass. If anyone is thinking of returning to vollie this year that may be an attractive offer." McSkimming says the reason for wanting locals to be the bulk of the new instructors is two-fold: Not only are Whistlerites close to the mountains in peak periods, locals know the hills and the valley and can offer ambassador-type support for visitors. "If you know the mountains of course it’s a big advantage for us and for the people taking the lessons. But if you know the village, such as which restaurants are good for a certain budget; which nightclubs and pubs might be good for certain individuals, then it’s that much better for everyone." The ski & snowboard school open-house is taking place in the middle of October, during the month-long job fair at Whistler-Blackcomb. Although most — if not all — seasonal hiring is being done by accessing the Whistler-Blackcomb web-site (www.whistler-blackcomb.com), or by printing out the six-page computer application form and faxing it to the mountains, McSkimming said details haven’t been worked out yet regarding the application process during the ski school’s open house. "We will have a meet and greet going on and ski school representatives will be on hand at the GLC to tell people about the ski school experience," McSkimming said. "We’re just working out the details of the presentation now."