Zero Ceiling was founded in 1997 in Whistler, BC by Chris Winter, who was then in his 20s and making his living as an athlete, instructor and guide in the ski and mountain bike industries. Winter had roots in Vancouver, and was troubled by the city’s high rates of youth homelessness. Winter’s big idea: Mountain experiences have the capacity to expand horizons and fuel empowered lives.
OUTDOOR ADVENTURES FOR ALL
Winter launched Zero Ceiling by organizing free visits to Whistler for young people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He gathered donations of lift passes, instructors and rental equipment, and partnered with Dusk to Dawn, a program operated by Vancouver’s Directions Youth Services Centre. During that first winter, 75 young people from challenging circumstances in Vancouver spent a day in Whistler’s majestic outdoors, learning to snowboard – and, in the process, expanding their sense of life’s possibilities.
While our work has expanded significantly since those early days, we’re still committed to providing powerful outdoor experiences to young people facing homelessness. Our Adventure Sessions program now welcomes 300+ young people every year to ski, snowboard, mountain bike, and zipline in Whistler. And we now work with youth agencies from from the Lower Mainland through to D’Arcy.
SNOWBOARD INSTRUCTOR TRAINING PROGRAM
In 2000, Zero Ceiling’s charitable work expanded – thanks to a visionary idea from Bruce Irving. Irving, a pioneer in Canada’s snowboard industry and Whistler Blackcomb’s Snowboard School, suggested that Zero Ceiling develop a program to help young people facing homelessness to move to Whistler to become snowboard instructors themselves. It proved to be an idea that would change lives.
Zero Ceiling’s Snowboard Instructor Training Program ran for eight years, young people with life skills and employment experience in Whistler’s majestic mountains. Today, Whistler Blackcomb’s Snowboard School still staffs instructors who built upon their start in Zero Ceiling’s Instructor Training Program to transform their circumstances, craft careers and make the mountains their home.
WORK 2 LIVE PROGRAM
In 2008, Zero Ceiling’s Snowboard Instructor Training Program was overhauled, and new components were added to strengthen the focus on life skills and personal growth along with stable housing. Renamed Work 2 Live, this life-changing program now includes housing, employment, life skills education, mental health support, help with setting personal goals, and weekly outdoor recreation activities all while participants work in various jobs for Whistler Blackcomb.
The Work 2 Live Program is open to young people aged 19 to 24 who are experiencing homelessness or unstable housing. To date, nearly 100 young people from Greater Vancouver and the Sea to Sky corridor have taken part in the Work 2 Live program. Work 2 Live graduates are now employed in many industries in Whistler, the Sea to Sky, and beyond.