Our membership keeps on growing this fall, and we couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Mountain Mentors to our ranks!
Brett Trainor and Thea Zerbe are the women behind this awesome nonprofit mentorship program, which just launched this October. Here’s a look at how they started, what they do, and where they hope to be in the future. A big thanks to Brett for filling us in on the details.
The idea for Mountain Mentors began a couple of years ago when Thea and I were students at UBC. Mountain Mentors actually originated as a Facebook group called “Women’s Mountain Collective” (WoMoCo) that was started by Thea and a close friend of ours, Emilie. WoMoCo was (and is) a platform for female students to organize outdoor initiatives, gear swaps, and plan trips together. Mountain Mentors was officially ‘launched’ in October 2016, and we’re excited to start our first season of mentorship programming this winter.
How the concept grew
Thea and I wanted to grow the WoMoCo community more formally, and decided on an all-female mentorship program. The importance of a mentor and role model in academia and business has been largely documented and supported by evidence—why couldn’t we do the same in alpine sports? We also noticed a programming gap: There are many entry-level programs for women looking to learn how to bike/ski, and some super-rad all-female guided trips that are unfortunately too expensive for our price range. We want to fill this gap with an affordable program with realistic time-commitments for your everyday working stiff, student, mother, or ski bum.
Other than offering insurance through the FMCBC (ha!), we are also extremely affordable compared to any other guiding/teaching program in alpine sports, and are really about gaining access to a community of women with similar interests and goals. A lot of the women we speak to consistently rate ‘finding female friends’ as a huge barrier to access the outdoors. We hope to change that through mentorship and access to a network of female shredders.
Giving support, getting support
We are still very new, but at least for me, the most humbling and inspiring interactions have been with my guy friends who I ski and ride with. They are SO excited about what we are doing and the model in which we are approaching the issue we are tackling (get more women shredding!). We were worried that by creating an “all-female” platform, men may feel ostracized, and this was NOT our intention. We are so grateful to have such a supportive group of male shredders to advocate for their lady friends—they’ve even asked us when we will offer mentorships for men! See the article written by Felix on Doglotion for an example of a heart-warming moment where he asks, “What can guys like me who are stoked on the idea do to help you guys succeed with the program?”
Our first mingler events are taking place in December—this is where mentor/mentee pairs meet each other in-person for the first time to share some drinks, laughs, and set goals for the upcoming season.
After that we are hoping to solidify our programs in the Sea to Sky corridor as well as our ‘supplemental programming’, i.e. offering avalanche training courses for those who didn’t get paired up with a mentor, as well as securing funding for the coming year.
Our aim is to offer high-quality, low-cost programming for all women. Once we are confident that we are offering sustainable and well-run programs here, it would be incredible to expand to new communities. There’s already been a huge expressed interest from other areas in BC!