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2024 Fernie Trails & Ski Touring Bursary Recipients

Filed in Bursary by on February 10, 2024 • views: 103

The Fernie Trails and Ski Touring Club (FTSTC) have finalized the 2024 Avalanche Bursary program with awards going to seven recipients with bursaries totaling $3425.

Magnus Leckenby, FTSTC President, commented, “Were happy that our bursary program is going towards people who will contribute to a safer backcountry”.

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

Next seasons 2025 bursary program will be open for applications starting on September 1st and must be submitted prior to November 30th.

Here are the 2024 recipients and their application requests:

Julie Bernasconi

My name is Julie Bernasconi and I would like to submit an application for a bursary to take the AST2 course. While I am not an avalanche industry professional, I have been working in the ski industry for close to 20 years including the last 11 years here in Fernie. As a level 4 ski instructor, I teach skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort, where I am the head coach of the Big Mountain Development team and work on the Nonstop program. I also work for the Canadian Ski instructor Alliance, teaching instructor courses as well as being on the board of directors for the British Columbia region.

While my experience in the ski industry as kept me mostly within the resort boundaries, I have always been curious to explore outside of the resort and to further my knowledge in as many areas related to skiing. I have been venturing outside of the resort boundaries for many years now but it is only within the last couple years that I have had more time to explore the backcountry and become a more confident backcountry traveler.

I am a firm believer that to be a well rounded ski professional you need to expend your horizon further than your area of knowledge and I love learning all new things that are snow related and skiing related. I have noticed a huge increase in interest in ski touring from my clients the last few years and I like to share my knowledge of the backcountry with them to assure that they will make safe decision as well as helping them achieve a level of skiing that will allow them to venture out of bounds.

I was made aware of the bursary program when I attended the 2023 EVSAW event. The workshop motivated me to enhance my knowledge of not only snow and avalanche safety, but also made it clear that a wider understanding of how to navigate more complex terrain will require more time and effort in order to do so.

I am registered to take the AST 2 course at the Mc Dermott hut with Mountain Addicts from January 1st to 5th, it is a course that I have been hoping to take for a long time and I am really excited to have finally reached a level of confidence that will allow me to take it. Being a ski professional, I will need to take a week off work to take this course, the time and money commitment has unfortunately been one of the factors stopping me from doing it sooner. For all the reasons mentioned above, I believe that I am a good candidate for this bursary.

Thank you for considering my request,
Julie Bernasconi

Faith Campbell

I was first introduced to avalanche careers when I moved to Kelowna in 2021, where I worked at Big White Ski Resort. The avalanche control work done by ski patrollers fascinated me, and I immediately knew this would be a passion of mine. I wanted to further my avalanche knowledge by taking Avalanche Safety Training level 1 while I was living in Nelson BC last winter. Through this course I started to ski tour, and got hooked immediately. I knew I loved the mountains and all they had to offer, but I was now aware of the inherent risk that comes with my newfound hobbies. So I started to study what career opportunities there were for people with the same passion I have for avalanches. This is what pushed me to move to Fernie, and start the MAST program at College of the Rockies.

The MAST program has helped me streamline my passions in the industry, and has inspired me to take the next steps towards a career as an Avalanche Forecaster. This year I’m enrolled in the Avalanche Operations Level 1 course for this December. Making this the first step of many to complete my future career goals.

My plan is to stick around in Fernie, as it’s by far my favorite ski town I’ve ever lived in. Since moving here only 2 months ago I’ve had the amazing opportunity to volunteer at the EvSaw event, and learn more about what an avalanche career here in Fernie would look like. Fernie has a vast ski community that is exceptionally welcoming for new individuals, and I would love to help contribute to this industry in the near future.

Receiving this bursary would help jumpstart my career in the avalanche path. One of the barriers to entry, which is common to others as well, are the financial costs of the Canadian Avalanche Association professional level courses. Should I be a recipient of this bursary, I would be extremely grateful for the assistance and this would in turn make me hirable for next winter.

Thank you for offering this opportunity to individuals like myself to strengthen the snow and avalanche community. The snow is flying and I am so excited to get out on my skis! See you out there in the Fernie backcountry!

Sincerely,
Faith Campbell

Connie Henderson

My name is Connie Henderson and I am applying for the Avalanche Safety Bursary for 2023/2024. This summer I went to New Zealand to work as a ski patroller and complete my Ops 2 course there. In New Zealand it is called the Avalanche Risk Management Level 6, it is equivalent and recognised in Canada. However, as I am a New Zealand citizen it ended up being cheaper than doing it in Canada, as well as a good learning opportunity with a different
snowpack. I have worked at Fernie Ski Patrol and now at Island Lake Lodge. My Ops 2 is helping me continue to build a long career in the avalanche industry and programs like the FT & STC Avalanche Bursary help with that also.

Last season, I changed my focus from ski patrolling to ski guiding as I found it was a way to diversify my skills in both forecasting and mountain travel. So I worked at Island Lake as a tail guide, in addition to practicums at Icefall Lodge and VMT. Through this I gained a lot of experience moving through terrain and then managed to do two 8 day glacier trips in the spring in Northern BC and the Yukon. From this my drive to become a ski guide also grew. I went to New Zealand in the summer specifically for the Ops 2 course and the opportunity to learn about a different snowpack. I hope to return next summer as I was offered a forecasting role at the ski hill I worked at.

This coming season, in addition to Island Lake, Icefall and VMT, I am also participating in a mentorship program. Through this I will be mentoring a woman who plans to take her Ops 1 later in the season and work towards ski guiding. As I have worked my way through the industry, having guidance from others to find support, like the FT & STC Bursary, and other programs has been a game changer in both being able to fund the training but also gain external motivation, so I hope to help another person gain the knowledge they need to be able to sustain a career in the avalanche industry.

Thank you again for providing an opportunity like this that supports the community.
Sincerely,
Connie

Charlie Leckenby

My name is Charlie Leckenby, I’m a local resident of Fernie BC, and a current member of the Fernie trails and ski touring club. Over the past two years I have spent numerous days volunteering at tunnel creek and thunder hut. I’m writing to apply for this year’s bursary. I’ve enrolled in the AST 1 course at the College of the Rockies and this bursary will make a significant impact in my ability to afford this course.

I’ve recently graduated from high school and I’m taking a year to prioritize the outdoors. I have spent my whole life skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort and have always had an interest in going out into the backcountry. I’m excited to learn more about avalanche safety in order to be more comfortable and safe in avalanche terrain. I am also interested in pursuing a career within the ski industry in the future.

Bryson McLellan

My name is Bryson McLellan and I’m applying for the FT&STC avalanche bursary.

I grew up hiking and camping in the BC interior, but it wasn’t until my military career brought me to Edmonton in 2018 that I began exploring the backcountry in winter. I completed an AST 1 course, spent a week skiing at Powder Creek Lodge and was hooked. Over the next three years I completed an AST 2 course and made it to the mountains a couple of times a year on day trips in Jasper, the Icefields Parkway, Rogers Pass and Fernie.

Finding that my military career was significantly limiting my skiing, I decided it was time for change. In 2022 I retired from the military, moved my family to Fernie and enrolled in the MAST program. The winter of 2022-23, between MAST courses and personal trips, I spent 22 days backcountry skiing, including co-leading a 3 day trip through the Athabasca Glacier and onto the Columbia Icefield.

I have a passion for outdoor adventure risk management: being able to play and explore in the mountains, while staying within an acceptable level of risk for the group. Being in avalanche terrain keeps me completely engaged through understanding the snowpack, constantly monitoring weather conditions, making terrain choices, and communicating with the group. All while exploring our amazing mountains and sharing them with others.

This season I completed the Canadian Avalanche Association Intro to Weather course and am registered for the Fernie based Ops Level 1 in January. I intend to continue building my backcountry experience, seeking employment in Fernie with ski patrol and tail guiding, with the ultimate goal of becoming an ACMG certified ski guide.

Best regards,
Bryson McLellan

Emily Pawlik

My name is Emily Pawlik, and I am writing to you today in hopes of receiving a bursary to assist me in paying for my CAA Avalanche Operations level 1 course in April 2024. I grew up in southern Ontario, and was fortunate enough to have been on skis since I was 2 years old. I was raised in freestyle skiing, competing in moguls and aerials, and was lucky enough to have my father as my coach. I guess you could say, skiing runs in the family. After my competition career ended, I followed in my fathers footsteps and became a freestyle ski coach. I did this, while also obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Community Health, with a Minor in Critical Animal Studies.

I was able to coach at my home mountain for 6 years, and am now going into my second year coaching for Fernie Freestyle. Throughout my years as a ski coach, in addition to obtaining my health degree, I have learned how much I genuinely love to help people. Because of this, I have decided to combine my passion for skiing and my love of helping people, and work towards my dream job of becoming a ski patroller.

Since moving to Fernie, I have had the privilege of being able to venture into the backcountry and go ski touring. This has only deepened my love for the mountains, and my passion for skiing. It has also opened my eyes to how little I know about avalanches, snowpack, and weather (apart from what was taught in the AST1 course). By acquiring my Avalanche Operations level 1, I will be furthering my knowledge in the backcountry, and in turn, be that much safer each time I go touring.

Furthermore, most entry level ski patrol positions require that I have my Avalanche Operations level 1. Receiving this bursary would be instrumental in enabling me to pursue my education in ski touring more effectively, as well as help me in working toward my dream career of being a ski patroller. With your support, I will be able to focus more on my course, as well as my studying and training that I need to do prior to taking the course; rather than working as much as I can to ensure that I am able to afford to attend.

I believe that this bursary will not only facilitate my personal growth, but also empower me to give back to the ski touring community that has given me so much. I am greatly appreciative of Fernie Trails and Ski Touring Club’s dedication to fostering the love for outdoor activities and education, and I am excited about the prospect of contributing to the club’s mission. Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to hearing back about your
decision.

Warm regards,
Emily Pawlik

Brett Robinson

My name is Brett Robinson and I am writing to apply for the FTSTC bursary program for the 2023-2024 season. I am an Apprentice Forecaster with the Fernie Ski Patrol and I will be taking my CAA Operations Level II this winter. I will be doing the 8 day course at Monashee Powdercats in late November and the 6 day assessment in Golden in March.

I moved to Fernie in 2014 for a quick ski season after university, and I’ve been here since. This will be my 7th season working with the Fernie Ski Patrol and I am incredibly excited to continue my growth in the snow and avalanche industry here. I have also been an avid recreational backcountry skier in the elk valley for the last 8 seasons, and I look forward to many more. I have enjoyed immersing myself in the snow and avalanche community and have benefited enormously from the mentorship of my co-workers and friends in that community. Moving forward I hope to become a valuable member of our snow and avalanche community, and serve as a mentor for new ski patrollers and pass my knowledge on to fellow backcountry recreationalists.

With this in mind, the Operations II course is an important step for me both personally and professionally. It will offer a solid foundation upon which to keep building my skill set and experience as I work towards my goal of becoming a valuable member of our forecasting team at FAR.

This bursary would be a huge help to me in covering some of the expenses that I will incur taking the Ops II this winter. I appreciate your consideration, and your ongoing support of avalanche education in the Elk Valley.

Thanks,
Brett

Finlay Thomson

Fist of all, I would like to thank you for the previous support I have received from you towards my CAA Level 1, two years ago. This year I will be doing the CAA Intro to weather course and hopefully CAA AvSAR course, depending on availability. These courses are prerequisites to the CAA level 2 course, which I hope to pursue in the future.

This season will be my third year working as a ski patroller at Fernie Alpine Resort. Patrolling is more of a life style than a job, the knowledge, experience, mentorship and friendship that I have gained from being a patroller is incredible. This year will also be my third year part time tail guiding at Fernie Wilderness Adventures. I feel very lucky to be able to call both of these things my ‘jobs’.

This winter I hope to explore deeper into the Fernie backcountry, make the most of my days off by exploring new zones, hopefully squeeze in a few trips to the Tunnel and Thunder Meadows huts and maybe do some spring missions to the Rockies to tick off more classics.

Thanks again to this club for providing such an amazing program and providing and maintaining the huts we all use.

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