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2023 Fernie Trails & Ski Touring Bursary Recipients

Filed in About, Bursary by on January 14, 2023 • views: 2135

The Fernie Trails and Ski Touring Club (FTSTC) have finalized the 2023 Avalanche Bursary program with awards going to an unprecedented all female group of seven recipients with bursaries totaling $2250.

Ian Stokie, FTSTC President, commented, “Were happy that our bursary program is going towards people who are pursuing a career in avalanche safety and working locally”.

Every year $2000 is available to help further avalanche education in the Elk Valley. The program has been in existence for the past decade and bursary applicants need to apply in writing to for consideration.

Next seasons 2024 bursary program will be open for applications starting on September 1st and must be submitted prior to November 30th.

Here are the 2023 recipients:

Olivia Johnson – $500
“I am a level 4 ski patroller at Fernie Alpine Resort. Please accept this letter as my application for the 2022 FTSTC Bursary program. Two years ago, I was accepted into the CAA Avalanche Operations Level 2 program but due to the Covid-19 pandemic there was a delay in the program and I have yet to take the courses. This year I will be doing the 8-day course in late November/early December 2022 and the 6-day assessment in March 2023.

Throughout my six and a half years in Fernie, I have heavily immersed myself in the snow and avalanche industry and culture. I am in my 7th year as a patroller at Fernie Alpine Resort. I have spent time tail guiding at Fernie Wilderness Adventures before the season was cut short in March 2020. As well, I completed a season of part time tail-guiding at Island Lake Lodge in 2021/2022. In addition, I am trying to encourage the growth of avalanche education in the Elk Valley through volunteer work. I have been a board member for the Fernie ISSW2020, a volunteer for SheJumps – _a mentoring program aimed to encourage the participation of women and girls in outdoor pursuits, and most recently as the current president of the Elk Valley Snow and Avalanche Workshop.

Furthering education and fostering growth of the snow and avalanche industry in our area of the province is something I am truly interested in. With the completion of the Operations Level 2 program, my aim is to pass on my knowledge through mentorship for newer ski patrollers. This is an area that is currently underserved within our community. I am constantly seeking new leadership opportunities and I hope to become a leader in the Fernie area for snow and avalanche safety, in more ways than just at work. In Fernie, we have an incredible passionate community of avalanche professionals with a rich history embedded in the snow and avalanche industry and I am looking forward to contributing what I can to keep the torch lit!”

Megan Bell $500 Bursary
First of all, I would like to thank the Fernie Trails & Ski Touring Club for your generous
donations in the past years. It has helped me afford these expensive professional avalanche courses. These courses have allowed me to learn more and progress in the industry. This year I have been accepted into my Avalanche Operations Level 2 training and exam with the Canadian Avalanche Association. I love working in the avalanche industry and am excited to continue my professional avalanche education. This will open new opportunities and allow myself to help contribute back to my community.

For the past two winters I have been working full time as a patroller at Fernie Alpine
Resort, as well as casually tailing guiding on my weekends at Fernie Wilderness
Adventures. Both operations have provided me with valuable experiences and great
mentors. My career goal in the avalanche industry is to keep gaining experience and to
possibly end up in a forecasting role.

This fall I have been selected to join Fernie Search & Rescue. I will be a more valuable
resource to SAR’s winter rescues upon completion of my Level 2. The community of
Fernie has been nothing but supportive for myself and I am thrilled to give back to the
people that have helped along the way.

Heather Sidaway – $500
I have lived in Fernie for 6 years now, and the 2022/2023 winter season will be my rookie season working as a paid ski patroller at Fernie Alpine Resort. I am currently enrolled in the Avalanche Operations Level 1 course starting December 10th at Powder Creek Lodge.

I grew up skiing in Vancouver and Whistler in my younger years, and since moving to Fernie skiing has become my main passion and obsession. I was fortunate to be a CSP volunteer ski patroller last winter in Fernie, and the experience showed me that I want to expand my education in avalanche safety, and become a professional ski patroller.
In my early seasons at Fernie, getting out to ski almost every day was a dream come true. Inc more recent years I have worked to learn more about avalanche safety in order to step out into the backcountry.

The highlight of my season last winter was a multi day trip to McDermott Cabin. The five of us set out with Mel Makepeace from Mountain Addicts as our guide. I couldn’t believe the joy I felt at the experience of exploring and skiing new terrain; throughout our days I chewed Mel’s ear off with questions about terrain choices, snow science and anything else that popped into my head. On our last day we skied one of the McDermott couloirs. Mel’s experience and knowledge was crucial for those of us with less backcountry experience to be able to ski that line. Mel was an inspiration, and showed me that such a level of learning is possible even with a later start in life (we found out that Mel hadn’t started skiing until into her 20’s).

My interest in avalanche study and safety has grown steadily; from my AST 1 course I took several years ago, to hundreds of days spent at the resort watching Fernie Ski Patrol use their skills and knowledge to safely open terrain, and to my time as a CSP volunteer patroller at Fernie last season. While I loved every minute of my days volunteering at the hill, I was acutely aware that I was sitting on the sidelines of the avalanche control work, and that I wanted to learn as much as possible to become more involved.

My personal and professional goals go hand in hand; in my first season patrolling at FAR I hope to safely learn, grow, and gain confidence in my skills as an avalanche professional. I am thrilled with the opportunity to patrol and learn at the hill that I love. I’m not sure yet where it will lead from there. My ultimate goal both personally and professionally is to delve deeper into the field of snow science, so I can safely gain confidence both in my skills as a ski patroller, and as an adventurer in the backcountry.

Tamika Green – $300
I completed my CAA Avalanche Operations Level 1 in 2021 and have been working on Fernie Ski Patrol for two seasons. This season I am enrolled in the CAA AvSAR course in March which is the next step to furthering my career as an avalanche professional. This course is a prerequisite for the CAA Level 2 which I hope to achieve in the next few years.

A little bit about me – I grew up skiing in New Zealand and always dreamed of coming to Fernie since I was a little kid (I had a ski instructor from Fernie). I finally made it for my first winter in 2019 and fell in love with the Canadian mountains and this beautiful community I now get to call home. I started to explore the backcountry around Fernie in my first winter, after doing my AST 1 through Fernie Alpine Resort in 2020. I knew very quickly that I wanted to pursue a career in the snow industry, and I was lucky enough to get a job on Fernie Ski Patrol for the 2020/21 winter season. I really enjoy learning about snow science and avalanche safety and feel very lucky that this training supports me both in my professional and recreational life. I continue to enjoy backcountry ski touring during my spare time and have many future objectives in and around the Canadian Rockies.

This bursary program would help me cover some of the cost of the AvSAR course and would allow me to increase my training and skill set as a ski patroller. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and considering my application for this bursary.

Connie Henderson – $150
I am taking my Intro to Weather course this fall to be able to apply for my CAA Avalanche Operations 2 by the end of this winter. The past 3 seasons I worked for Fernie Ski Patrol, this coming season I will be working more as a tail guide at Island Lake, as well as volunteering as a practicum at Icefall Lodge and Valhalla Mountain Touring. I have also coached for Fernie Freestyle on the weekends and am completing a Diploma in Tourism Management online through College of the Rockies.

This past winter I worked both at Fernie as patrol and at Island Lake tail guiding. I worked pretty full-time from December to the end of March but when I had a couple days off throughout the season I tried to spend it ski touring in new places I had not been in Fernie. I was touring up around Hosmer more and am super stoked on that zone. In the spring I did the Wapta Traverse with Megan Bell and Matt. I also spent 7 days doing day missions out of Lake Louise and skied Mt Hector, Grand Daddy Couloir and Bell Couloir. After that in May I spent a week at Icefall doing their Mountaineering Course.

This coming winter I am hoping to have a little bit more free time for personal trips and exploring both around the Elk Valley and other places in the Interior. I am working towards applying for the ACMG Ski Guide program but am also just stoked to be continuing my avalanche education and working towards my Level 2.
This bursary would help me continue my avalanche education and pursue my future goals within the avalanche industry.

Emma Genest – $150
I am writing to apply for the generous Avalanche Bursary Program. If successful, I will use the money to offset the costs of the two CAA ITP courses I am enrolled in this year. I completed the CAA Intro to Mountain Weather in October 2022, and am enrolled in the CAA AvSAR in Fernie this upcoming March. This bursary would be a huge help for me to afford the costs of these courses.

I moved to Fernie 6 years ago with zero backcountry skiing experience or knowledge, with the intention of staying in Fernie for one winter season. Instead, I fell in love with Fernie enrolled in the MAST program for the following year to pursue a career in the outdoors. Ever since that first winter in Fernie, my goal has been to find a career that I love and that lets me stay in the Elk Valley. I am so pleased to be employed by Fernie Wilderness Adventures as a tail guide, and my hope is to continue to learn and eventually take the Operations Level 2 once I have gained enough experience.

If I were to be chosen as a recipient, this bursary would help alleviate some of the financial burden of these courses and would be hugely appreciated. Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my application, and hope you have a wonderful and safe winter.

Andie Lawrence – $150
I am a Fernie resident with a passion for skiing. I am a grade 12 student and have been accepted into the engineering program at University of Calgary for next year, with the hope that one day I will be able to support advancing avalanche safety through my engineering skills.

I have been skiing since my second birthday. I joined the Marmot Basin freestyle club at age four, and by age six I was hiking up to the cornice with my coach. Five years ago my family moved to Fernie and it has been a great place to live and ski during my high school years. When I was fourteen I convinced a friend to do the AST I with me. I really enjoyed the field experience aspect of learning in the mountains contrary to the usual classroom setting. I am registered to do my AST II in February. This specific course is for women only which will be extra special. I am applying for this bursary to help cover the cost of this course.
I try to get out into the backcountry as much as possible. This has so far been mostly limited to slackcountry, however, I am itching for that to change. My usually buddies in the backcountry are my dad and his friends, who all have their AST I and more years of experience than myself. It can sometimes be challenging to find educated friends to go with as there are not many kids my age with their AST I. I am fascinated by avalanches, the science behind them, and the complexity in understanding their behavior.

I would like to become as educated in the backcountry as possible, to be more comfortable while I am touring, and also be more involved in the conversations regarding path making, snow conditions, and safety precautions. I also hope to be able to work or volunteer in the outdoors, whether in search and rescue, ski patrol, or guiding. My long term professional goals are more challenging to define since I am only seventeen. I plan to earn an engineering degree and it would be a dream to one day combine my engineering skills with the science of avalanche safety.

Congratulations to the recipients and best wishes with your avalanche career, the Club is happy to support you!


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