By Andrew Mitchell
Whistler’s Zero Ceiling program, which provides opportunities for urban youth deemed at risk to enjoy the mountains — and for some candidates to move here full-time — has accepted four new candidates into its snowboard instructor program.
Twelve applicants turned out to the Directions Youth Services Centre in Vancouver on Dec. 4 to apply for the positions, and four were chosen. All were brought to Whistler on Dec. 5, given snowboard gear, paired up with peer mentors, and enrolled in the Zero Ceiling snowboarding instructor program until Dec. 12.
If the candidates make it through the first part of the program, and meet standards of conduct, they will be hired by Whistler-Blackcomb, provided with housing, and, most importantly, given an opportunity to build new lives in Whistler — away from poverty, substance abuse, violence, crime, homelessness and other issues they experienced in Vancouver. First Nations youth deemed at risk have also been included in the program for the last few years.
The candidates will continue to meet with peer mentors through the season, and take snowboard instructor courses. There are also opportunities to work for Whistler-Blackcomb through the summer months, making Whistler a full time option for participants in the Zero Ceiling program.
Since the snowboard instructor program began in 1999 some 35 youths at risk have participated in the program. Twelve of those participants still live and work in Whistler, including participants that have been here for eight years.
While some youth washed out, others left Whistler after they got their lives together.
While they’re in Whistler the candidates will be staying at the Tantalus Lodge and eating dinner at the Garibaldi Lift Company, with other support supplied by Whistler-Blackcomb, Zero Ceiling sponsors and Zero Ceiling.
It wasn’t easy to decide which of the 12 candidates to approve, says Zero Ceiling program manager Marc Zurbuchen.
“The quality of the candidates this year made the interviews a very difficult decision. Each one of the youths involved has shown that they are ready and willing to make a change in their lives; a large part of that journey begins this week.”
Zero Ceiling is also looking into the possibility of expanding its activities beyond the snowboard instructor program — originally chosen because Zero Ceiling’s founders knew that snowboarding would be the biggest draw for the youth.
“We’ve been working on expanding this program to encompass other Whistler-Blackcomb departments and other businesses within Whistler and make it year-round,” said Chris Winter, founder of the program. “It’s been proven, the snowboard instructor training program works.”