Recognized as one of BC's Top Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 8, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Whistler Blackcomb was selected as one of BC's Top Employers (2017):
- Whistler Blackcomb is a longstanding environmental leader -- the resort established an environmental management strategy back in 1993 with the aim of developing a model of environmental and social stewardship for ski and mountain resort operations -- the strategy includes everything from watershed protection to native species planting to low-emission snowmobiles and shared-use bicycle programs
- Whistler Blackcomb provides housing for its full- and part-time seasonal employees (with room for 1,100 employees) along with discounted mountain passes and free access to an onsite fitness facility that features instructor-led classes, including yoga and mountain-fit programs
- Whistler Blackcomb provides its many younger employees opportunities to build careers in the same place they play through apprenticeships, co-op work terms and paid internships -- and follows up throughout their careers with a variety of in-house and online training programs, formal mentoring and tuition subsidies for courses taken at outside institutions
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2017)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 9, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Whistler Blackcomb was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2017):
- Whistler Blackcomb provides paid internships and co-op opportunities to students in a number of areas including operations, retail, interactive marketing, public relations, marketing, snow school, human resources, guest relations and lift operations
- Additionally, Whistler Blackcomb offers a number of in-house apprenticeships and skilled trades training, and recently created a culinary apprenticeship program with the aim of employing 3 apprentices per level per year (professional cook levels one, two and three)
At Whistler Blackcomb, every day is a snow day
If you get chatting with staff in a restaurant or store that's part of British Columbia's Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, you may find they have surprising backgrounds.
"They may be lawyers, or doctors, or people taking time off from their PhD studies - just to go have some fun," says Joel Chevalier, Vice President of Employee Experience. "So we get a very diverse group of people here, which makes the culture and the energy a lot of fun."
Whistler Blackcomb, based about 120 km north of Vancouver in Whistler, B.C., hires up to 1,400 new seasonal employees every year, augmenting some 1,800 returning seasonal people and 1,000 permanent staff. A great many are attracted to the resort because they love skiing or snowboarding, even if their job doesn't require it.
"On a day like today, where you wake up and it's snowing, people will come in early - but not to get to work," says Chevalier. "They're coming in to get some turns in before they start. For those jobs that provide the flexibility, it's pretty acceptable on a big snow day that there's not a lot of people in the office before 10 or 10.30."
Whistler Blackcomb recruits people from across the country and internationally to find top talent for food and beverage services, retail sales, lift operations, guest services and, of course, ski and snowboard instructors. "They're a very hot commodity," says Chevalier. "There are not enough of them around."
Which is why people tend to mention the many Australians and other nationalities that you find on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb and other Canadian resorts. Chevalier says Canadians are the biggest nationality among employees at Whistler Blackcomb, but Australians are second at 300-500 a year. They work under the special International Experience Permit for young people on "working holiday" for which Canada has reciprocal agreements with 30 countries.
The company itself recently became even more international, joining Broomfield, Colo.-based Vail Resorts, Inc., which runs premier ski resorts and hotels across North America.
Internal surveys show the workforce is highly engaged, Chevalier says. Overall, it's also pretty young. The average age is 34-35 and the most frequent age is 22-23. But there are also several employees over 80, including ski instructors. "They are more fit than some of our 24-year-olds," Chevalier says.
Some 80 per cent of employees live in picturesque Whistler village, located at the foot of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and also known for high rents. The company has therefore expanded its subsidized staff quarters in recent years, now offering 1,300 beds.
Among the young people staying there each winter is Hayden Leo, who grew up on the Lil'wat Nation reserve in nearby Mount Currie. He has spent five seasons making snow, often on 12-hour shifts. "We work long hours running the high-pressure water and air guns," he says. "The air blasts the water and combines it with dust in the air, and it nucleates to make snow."
Leo came to the resort on school snowboarding trips during high school, then joined the workforce six years ago with support from BladeRunners, a B.C. government employment and skills training program aimed mainly at Indigenous youth. He learned about snowmaking and lift hosting, as well as doing trail crew some summers. He now works October to April at Whistler Blackcomb, then fills out the year as a supervisor with a forestry company.
"Working at Whistler has given me a lot of leadership skills," he says. "And I really like working with the people here."
Like so many staffers, he also likes his modes of work transport. "We ski and snowboard around the mountain during the day, and we use snowmobiles at night," he says. "It's a pretty epic job."
Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 20, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Whistler Blackcomb was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2017):
- Whistler Blackcomb partnered with power production companies and BC Hydro to develop the onsite Fitzsimmons River Plant hydro-electric facility, which produces as much electricity as the resort consumes annually -- the resort is currently studying new hybrid micro-hydro electric power generation systems that would be combined with its extensive snow-making system
- Whistler Blackcomb's Environmental Fund provides annual grants to registered non-profit organizations working to improve the natural environment in the Sea to Sky Corridor -- the fund has provided over $360,000 to date through generous voluntary staff donations, which are in turn matched by the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation
- Whistler Blackcomb introduced aggressive recycling and composting programs in 2005 and has since implemented a number of initiatives as it works towards the goal of zero waste -- impressively, the resort reduced its waste by as much as 70 percent annually over a baseline year of 2000
Whistler Blackcomb: Big mountains, small footprint
If you happen to be eating in one of the cafeterias at B.C.'s world-ranked Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, don't bother to pick up your tray at the end of the meal. The staff would rather recycle your leftovers themselves, from a highly trained point of view.
"Sometimes people are getting up and we take the tray from their hands," says Arthur De Jong, Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager. "It becomes a very positive exchange as we explain what we're doing."
What Whistler Blackcomb is doing is aiming for a zero operational footprint in terms of the resort's impact on the environment, a highly ambitious target but one it comes closer to reaching every year.
Among its biggest achievements is a 71 per cent plunge in waste sent to landfills compared to 2000, largely due to recycling and, especially, composting restaurant food waste. "Over 70 per cent of our waste is generated from our food and beverage operations," says De Jong. "So we like to do the sorting."
Set on two pristine mountains about 120 km north of Vancouver with a roster of staff who love the outdoors, Whistler Blackcomb may seem to be - almost automatically - a Green Employer. But the company is determined to be a world leader in environmental responsibility in its operations. "Our mantra is, build experiences within the eco-systems, rather than changing them," says De Jong.
So even in creating new ski runs or bike trails, the company has found ways to keep the surroundings intact. Conventionally, about 40 per cent of forest cover may be lost in developing a ski area. But for the new Symphony Bowl in 2006, "we pushed it down to five per cent," says De Jong. Among the techniques: routing trails more narrowly between clusters of trees, rather than chopping through them.
The resort has also had major success in energy conservation, cutting $1.5 million from its annual electricity and heating bill through low-energy lighting, automated heating systems and more effective snowmaking. "We now have energy-efficient snowmaking guns that use a quarter of the energy of conventional systems," says De Jong.
Staff also monitor electricity usage to ensure it does not exceed peak ceilings set by B.C. Hydro, its electricity provider. And a local river running through the ski area has a separately-owned micro-hydro generator that produces roughly the same amount of power that the resort consumes.
The company still relies on fossil fuels for its fleet of grooming machines and snowmobiles, but it is testing hybrid models and other systems that could reduce consumption by up to 40 per cent in a few years.
Increasingly, says De Jong, responsible stewardship is something the resort's guests expect. It's also an attractive aspect for employees. "Many of them are millennials who are impassioned about the environment."
Employees themselves have a volunteer "Every Step Counts" committee, part of a B.C.-wide initiative, that chair Sarah Colman says is dedicated to educating staff on following good environmental practices. That includes turning off the lights at the end of day, making sure windows in staff quarters are closed to keep in the heat, and taking part in Bike to Work and mountain cleanup programs.
The committee also holds occasional sustainability town halls to help spread environmental awareness and hear ideas for improvements, says Colman. "Sometimes employees in the frontline can see opportunities that the people in the office don't."
Colman, whose job is Brand and Content Marketing Supervisor, says she has worked at companies where even convincing others to print double-sided was an uphill battle. "It just wasn't embedded in the culture, whereas here it's common ground," she says. "Everyone is sustainability-focused. And because of that you feel like you have the chance to make a difference."