A British Columbia teen is spearheading an effort to revive junior ski patrols in Canada.
Sixteen-year-old Emily Kehler recently earned her way onto the ski patrol at Manning Park Resort as a full member.
Getting certified involved intensive first-aid and on-mountain training, including toboggan use and lift evacuations. But that wasn’t the hardest part.
“I also had to do the work of getting this going. So, writing letters to our board of directors, (the Canadian Ski Patrol) executive team at the Greater Vancouver zone, and eventually to the national board in Ottawa,” she told Global News.
“Emily is an unstoppable force, and with her enthusiasm we made it happen, and it’s something we’d like to continue happening,” said Manning Park Resort Ski Patrol training officer Scott Wilton.
The Canadian Ski Patrol is a national organization that staffs ski hills across the country, mostly with volunteers.
Members must be 18-years-old, but that wasn’t always the case. Manning Park Resort operations manager Troy Davis said three decades ago, there also used to be a youth wing.
Davis said he was thrilled to see Kehler making the push to bring the junior program back.
“It’s critical, because our pool of people for patrol has decreased over the years, so if we get some of the young people in there, they have a better chance of coming and sticking around,” Davis said.
He said Kehler’s youth also gives her an upper hand in connecting with teens and children on the hill.
While Kehler is a full member of the team, Davis said she’ll always be paired with an experienced adult member, and won’t be dispatched to “bad calls.”
“I’m sure there will be a little more polishing of skills, because they are going to be training her and helping her out,” he said. “We have some people who have been patrolling here for probably 30 years.”
For Kehler, the opportunity is a literal dream come true.
The teen grew up on the mountains, and told Global News she’s known she wanted to be on patrol as long as she can remember.
“I remember saying when I was four or five years old to anyone who would listen, I’m going to become a ski patroller as soon as I’m 16,” she said.
“I bring youthfulness, I have a fresh set of eyes for this. I also have the perspective of skiing with my friends, who are my age, teenagers, and understanding the dynamic, understanding where they are coming from whenever they go out of bounds or break the rules. I can understand that peer pressure.”
Wilton described Kehler’s membership on the Manning team as something of a “pilot project,” but one he expects will be a success.
He hopes the initiative will inspire other mountains in B.C. to revive junior ski patrols. Manning stands ready to help if they are interested.
Should that happen, Kehler said she’s ready to assist.
“I do truly believe that young people can change the world, young people getting involved in initiatives like this one really can make a positive impact on other people’s lives,” she said.
“I’m really hoping as we continue to grow this program, that effect will grow.”