Talkin’ Shop With the Founders of Mountain Mentors
This fall, Brett Trainor and Thea Zerbe launched their non-profit organization “Mountain Mentors“. Originally friends from UBC who pursued the mountain disciplines together, the pair have now gone on to launch an incredibly awesome program for women who want to progress in the art of travelling safely in the mountains based in the Sea to Sky. To quote their website:
Mountain Mentors facilitates formal, mountain-based mentorships for women interested in alpine sports. Our aim is to provide an affordable mentorship program with realistic time commitments for working professionals, students, mothers, and ski bums alike.
Being lucky enough to call these two scoundrels my friends, I sat down with them at Brassneck Brewery here in the hustle and bustle of Vancouver to get the skinny on their new venture.
Alright. Who are you guys and what is Mountain Mentors?
Brett: My background is in non profit doing fund development and event planning. And so, mtn mentors is a really awesome way to move forwards with my goals as a professional in a realm I’m super passionate about. It started through a UBC Facebook group that Thea and our friend Emily started.
Thea: Yeah so as Brett mentioned we started a Facebook group called the Women’s Mountain Collective. Originally it was just super informal group that consisted of close friends who were all women and wanted to do stuff outside together. It caught on and now it has something like 350 members in the group! It’s basically a knowledge exchange and platform for girls to get out into the mountains together. So then Brett and I got together last spring because we wanted to find a way to organically grow this concept as an offshoot of that group and so we came up with the idea of a formal mountain based mentorship program program. So that’s how Mountain Mentors started and we’ve basically been working on polishing that idea since then and this is going to be out first year for it.
Brett: We wanted to fill a gap we saw in the market in that there were all these entry level women’s camps – which are totally great- and then also these ultra expensive hut based camps taught by pro skiers; nothing really in between. So we thought what about the regular shred moms and students and young professionals who have rad goals in the mountains? So we wanted to create something that would cater to them.
Right on. So what’s your biggest goals as far as year one for the program?
Thea: Well originally our goal was just to have 10 mentors and mentees matched up for the program and we’ve already ended up with 130 applications thus far! It’s something like 100 mentees and 30 mentors. That was our biggest goals and we’ve already surpassed it. Everyone has been so receptive of our program.
Brett: And it’s funny we spent so long working on our own personal networks to get friends to apply as mentors just to ensure we don’t flop on launch and in the end most of the mentors that have applied we don’t even know! So it’s really cool to see such a great reception from everyone in our little community.
Thea: I think as well to add another major goal on top of what Brett was saying will be make sure our operational systems are working properly. It’s so easy to focus on your social media presence and all the abstract business which are of course important but it’s still crucial to ensure that the actual execution of the program happens properly as well. I mean we haven’t even done anything yet and people are already coming up to us and saying “wow you guys are so amazing good job!” but really all we’ve done is put up a website so far haha. We are stoked though.
Yeah I guess that’s just kinda life in the digital age… all hype no substance. Is there a benchmark for how experienced a mentor should be to apply as a mentor for the program?
Thea: We didn’t want to make it too specific because as we mentioned we were worried about hitting our metrics in terms of enough numbers of applicants. As well, women often tend to downplay their ability and experience levels so we decided to make sure the requirements were as open as possible and really only ask that they’re willing to share knowledge. That’s it. We’ve had a lot of different women apply in terms of background such as professional guides or pro skiers or even just badass moms who shred on the weekends.
It’s rad to see that the whole program is being so well received in the community. Which mountain disciplines are you guys focusing on just skiing or climbing as well?
Thea: This year we are focusing on skiing, splitboarding, climbing, and mountain biking. Of course the skiing and splitboarding programs will be happening this winter and then climbing and mountain biking in the summer months.
That’s rad. I think you should consider monoskiing too. It’s on the rise again I’m tellin’ ya! So of course this is a women’s exclusive program and it sounds like it’s going to be a great one at that. What can guys like me who are stoked on the idea do to help you guys succeed with the program?
Brett: Wow that’s such a cool question to ask. We haven’t been asked that one yet. Yeah so I think what makes me most proud about what we’re doing is the response from all our guys friends because the whole point isn’t to proclaim that we’re women and we do thing differently you know? It’s not an anti-men agenda or anything. It’s just like why do women like to be outdoors? Because being outside is awesome that’s all. And we want to facilitate that in the most receiving way possible. Women learn differently and so we want to ensure that there are programs out there to cater to that. We want to make sure we don’t come off as something that’s trying to discriminate in any way.
Awesome. Now that we’ve gotten all the formalities out of the way I think it’s time to get to what we’re all here to hear about. Between you two, who would win in an arm wrestle?
Brett: Hahah. Should we try? I feel like Thea will win because she climbs. I could probably beat her in an actual fist fight though.
Thea: Okay. You know what’s an actually more fun than arm wrestling? Finger Jousting.
Thea: *attempts to finger joust*
Brett: What the hell is going on
This interview just went sideways.
So there you have it. The program is still receiving mentor applications for the 16/17 season for a few more days. Mentee applications are already filled up. So spread the good word of the good stuff being done here on the olds social channels and if you’re a chick who wants to share some stoke with other chicks then apply while you still can!