After opening for classes in the spring of 2014 the Whistler Adventure School has always offered a nice excuse for moving to the mountains (“But mom, I’m going to school there…!”) but as of a couple months ago Whistler’s top educational institution just became a lot more legit.
“In December we achieved full accreditation with the Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA ) so course credits are now fully transferable,” says operations manager Eric Hughes. “We just did two full ski production classes, our ski guide program is in full swing and the upcoming photo course is full too, so things are going well.”
Offering both one-off skills courses as well as full-immersion career programs, the school is seeing decent enrollment from local residents but foreign student re-enrollment has exploded over the past two seasons. “People are calling in from all over the world,” says recruiting and marketing manager Ashley Grierson. “Certain countries are drawn to Whistler and the kinds of programs we offer. Our ski guide program is full of almost entirely Swiss and German students right now”
The foreign student enrollment has been so high the school had to rent a house to act as student housing. They also work with the Athletes’ Centre in Cheakamus Crossing. Grierson says that many students make friends and find other accommodation after a few months in town but the student house has been very useful when they first arrive. “It’s been great as everyone at the house has been learning from each other too,” she says. “Right now there are students speaking Swiss, French, Slovakian and German so they are all practicing their English and learning each other’s languages too.”
As a community, Whistler is already seeing trickle-down benefits from having a higher learning facility in town—skilled labour is always in demand. “Whistler is responding really well,” Grierson says, admitting it took a bit of effort and time to get the word out to the community. “Local bike and ski shops are on board with co-op or volunteer opportunities for students. Skiis & Biikes sent seven employees to our bike mechanics course last year and sent people down for the boot-fitting course this winter. We also partner with Prior Skis and Snowboards as well as the Whistler Film Festival. We want to partner with as many local companies as possible but it is a slow organic process, we don’t want to overwhelm the community with a massive thing at once.”
As their co-op program builds the Whistler Adventure School hopes to provide Whistler with more trained adventure tourism employees who are already committed and set up to live here. They also provide a chance for foreign workers already in town to stay for another year by going back to school, learning a trade and keeping the dream alive for another year on a student visa.
And most importantly at all, this school understands the 20 cm rule. “Our classes are intense,” Grierson says. “You can’t miss days if you are trying to be a ski guide or rock guide, but most of our classes are 5:30 to 9:30 PM so you can still hit a pow day and make it to class.”
The Whistler Adventure School offers a variety of mountain-related courses and programs including a ski production course starting March and a Rock Guiding program in the spring. Check out their website for details, or sign up for the weekend ski-building workshop and come to Whistler to build and ski your very own custom made boards.