CANADIAN SKI PATROL STILL LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
VERNON - Sadness, anger and confusion are some of the emotions members of the Canadian Ski Patrol are feeling after finding out they aren’t being asked back to Silver Star Mountain next winter.
Volunteers from the Canadian Ski Patrol can be found on many ski hills around the region, including Apex Mountain, Big White, Sun Peaks, Kicking Horse, and Harper Mountain, but after 16 years, they will no longer be a fixture at Silver Star. The resort cited operational reasons for the change, but ski patrollers say they have not been given a clear answer.
“What was told to us is the contract would not be renewed,” longtime member Tom Tull says. “That’s all that was said.”
Born and raised in the North Okanagan, and having spent many years at Silver Star Mountain aiding skiers and training new patrollers, Tull sums up the overall feeling as ‘something precious to you being taken away.’
“One of the things that becomes difficult for a volunteer when a door is closed is the fact that there’s an incredible sense of pride to being a volunteer,” Tull says. “I’ve been told I can’t come back next year, and that hurts.”
Despite feeling hurt and disappointed with the decision, Tull still has respect for Silver Star, and says the resort is within its rights to terminate the contract.
“It is what it is. We did really, really good work for the mountain. It’s too bad the efforts of Canadian Ski Patrol either aren’t respected to the same level any more, or the expectations have changed,” Tull says. “I can’t say unequivocally what the concerns were, or conversely, it may simply be as Silver Star has stated, that they have made an operational decision to go a different direction.”
Canadian Ski Patrollers go through roughly 80 hours of rigorous training, and while that certification is recognized nationally, in B.C., the Workers Compensation Board does not accept it as an equivalent to Occupational First Aid Level 3. However, that hasn’t stopped the Canadian Ski Patrol — which has its own insurance — from being welcomed at numerous ski hills around the province. Since hearing the news at Silver Star, Tull says several other mountains have extended invitations to the organization.
“Big White has offered an opportunity to our people with open arms, there’s a possibility of some people going to Sun Peaks, others to Harper Mountain,” Tull says. “The ski industry is small; when something happens, everybody knows everybody else’s business. Many people in the industry want to know what has gone on here at Silver Star… It is my hope through continuing a dialogue (with Silver Star) we will, for our people, be able to generate some clarity as to what’s going on and why the decision is being made.”
Looking back at his time as a Canadian Ski Patroller on Silver Star Mountain, Tull has many memories — watching members learn and grow; calming down injured skiers; even making lifelong friends with patients. He’s still holding out hope that one day, the Canadian Ski Patrol will be invited back to Silver Star Mountain.
“It’s all about people,” Tull says. “Doing good things for good people.”
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