Everything we do here at Zero Ceiling is shaped by our dedicated, generous partners in our community and beyond. Whether we’re working together to mentor young people, delivering unforgettable outdoor adventures, or providing vital support services, our partners are crucial to our success. So this year, we will be shining a spotlight on a few of the many wonderful organizations that we work with.
And we’re starting with our very first, and still biggest partner, Whistler Blackcomb. For over twenty years they have quietly been helping us transform the lives of young people experiencing homelessness. Our participants have lived in unstable situations for much of their lives: in foster care, shelters, couch surfing and on the streets. Across departments from Snow School to HOUSE, Whistler Blackcomb’s staff work hard to provide life-changing experiences, unconditional support and plenty of outdoor adventure.
Zero Ceiling and Whistler Blackcomb: How It All Began
Like so many things in Whistler, Zero Ceiling started as just an idea. Luckily, it was an idea had by pro-skier Chris Winter, who had the passion and drive to turn his ideas into reality – and quickly. When he decided he wanted to help young people experiencing homelessness enjoy the power of the outdoors, he knew where to turn. He called up contacts at Whistler Blackcomb and asked: could they help? And help they did, with donations of lift tickets, lessons and snowboarding gear. That year – way back in 1997 – 75 disadvantaged young people from Directions Youth Services Centre in Vancouver spent a day in Whistler learning to snowboard and expanding their horizons.
Making Outdoor Adventure a Reality for Homeless Youth
Today, our Adventure Sessions program provides the same eye-opening, life-affirming opportunities. Every year, up to 400 young people from youth agencies across Vancouver and the Sea to Sky corridor make the trip to Whistler for a day of adventure – snowboarding in winter and mountain biking in summer. Despite growing up so close to Whistler, most of these young people have never had the chance to experience the joy of mountain adventure for themselves. Some have never even made the iconic drive from Vancouver to Whistler. When they do, it opens up a world of opportunities they never knew existed.
For over two decades, dedicated staff at Whistler Blackcomb have made sure these young people have the best experience possible. Snow School and Bike School instructors always create a fun, supportive environment for our crews to enjoy themselves. They help them find that sense of satisfaction you get when you master your first turns. Behind the scenes, Rentals and Tickets staff make sure that after all these years, we can continue to welcome as many groups as possible to Whistler every year.
Work 2 Live: Whistler Blackcomb Helping Us Transform Lives
Whistler Blackcomb don’t just provide adventure. It’s through Whistler Blackcomb that we’re able to offer full-time employment, subsidized housing and season’s passes and rentals to our Work 2 Live participants. They guarantee rooms and jobs for eight participants every year. This gives young Canadians in challenging circumstance access to the great adventures and supportive community of Whistler. And they provide plenty of support, mentorship and resources to help our crew thrive here in their new home.
Whistler Blackcomb Managers Helping Our Crew Succeed At Work
As our Snowboard Instructor Program evolved into Work 2 Live, more and more departments got involved with Zero Ceiling. Over the years, our Work 2 Live crew have staffed a huge range of departments, from Snow School to Ticket Validation, Food and Beverage to Retail and Rentals. And in all of those departments, we’ve worked with compassionate, dedicated managers who work hard to help our crew succeed. Starting a new job in a new town is challenging for anyone. It can be especially difficult for our participants, who come from very different backgrounds to the normal Whistler crowd. But for nearly two decades, managers at Whistler Blackcomb have supported over 90 participants to learn new skills, grow in confidence, and succeed at work.
Managers like Adam, who has worked with lots of our youth over the years and helped them thrive at work. When we asked him about his experience, he said,
“It is a great feeling to watch them succeed. Thinking back to the first day you met, going through training and trying to understand how their specific experiences are shaping their behaviours, how they conduct themselves and how they move forward. Now you see them at the end of the season with skills and knowledge they didn’t have before and a different outlook on life and you know you had a part in that.”
Providing Stable Housing and Support
Outside of work too, our crew are supported by the awesome Whistler Blackcomb HOUSE team. HOUSE Advisors provide a vital service for anyone who’s recently arrived in Whistler staff housing. They answer questions, solve problems and put on events to bring people together. And they do the same for our Work 2 Live participants, helping them adapt to their new home and community. Most of our participants have lived in unstable situations for much of their lives: in foster care, shelters, couch surfing and on the streets. By providing stable housing, and plenty of support, Whistler Blackcomb make it possible for them to focus on work, setting goals and of course, learning to snowboard!
The Epic Promise: New Ways to Make a Difference
Of course, there have been a few changes in town since Vail Resorts bought Whistler Blackcomb two years ago. And we’re excited that our long-term partnership is now part of Vail Resorts’ EpicPromise program. Spanning dozens of resorts, the EpicPromise is Vail’s commitment to the mountains, and the communities, that we call home. They give over $6.8 million every year to support non-profits who deliver youth programs and environmental initiatives. And we’re lucky that Zero Ceiling is one of those programs. Vail Resorts have continued to provide the in-kind donations, support and dedicated staff that have made our partnership work for over 20 years.
We were also excited to hear that last month, Vail CEO Rob Katz and his wife Elana Amsterdam donated $175,000 to social services in Whistler: Whistler Community Services and Sea to Sky Community Services. These services are so vital to so many in our community, whether they’re struggling with food security, poverty, homelessness or mental health problems. We work closely with them to provide additional support to our participants whenever they need it. So we’re thrilled to see Vail Resorts supporting such important, impactful programs.
Whistler Blackcomb and Vail Resorts: Truly Epic Partners
Twenty years is a long time, and we’re so stoked that we’ve worked with Whistler Blackcomb for so long. They’ve made it possible for over 4000 young people to take part in our programs. We are so grateful for everything Whistler Blackcomb, and now Vail Resorts, have done for us over the years. Their commitment, experience and incredible staff make it possible for us to transform lives.