Being responsible for the safety and well-being of 675,000 skiers and 150 staff each year is what Kris Hawryluik finds most rewarding about his job.
Kris is a die-hard ski patroller. Starting off as a ski instructor at age 16, Kris went on to complete the college-level Ski Resort Operations Management Program. Since then, he has worked at three ski resorts: Shames Mountain in Terrace, Panorama Ski Resort in Invermere, and Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna.
After joining Big White, Kris moved up the ranks, first as an avalanche technician, then assistant patrol supervisor, and later on he became the patrol director. In addition to his diploma, Kris has completed numerous search and rescue, avalanche and advanced first-aid courses, which have all proved to be extremely helpful.
Kris starts his day by assigning his zone leaders their responsibilities, reviewing accident reports from the previous day, and taking care of other administrative duties. Then at 10:00 a.m., Kris straps on his skis and checks out the mountain. Usually back at his office by noon, he reviews accident reports and anything else that has occurred during the morning. Then he’s back on his skis an hour later to assist and observe senior patrollers until 4:00 p.m., when he returns to his office to prepare debriefing notes of any major incidents from the day. For serious accidents, Kris conducts in-depth risk management investigations. There are also weekly department-head meetings.
In the past two decades, Kris has witnessed a large increase in wages, benefits, and potential advancements and an even larger increase for those who commit to it year-round. “Those are the ones who reap the rewards rather quickly,” he says.
For example, lift operators at Big White can become lift mechanics, and the resort pays for the training. This is a four-year apprenticeship program, and you become employed year-round. Ski instructors are now getting into the ski-show business in the off-season; the resort covers all travel costs to attend trade shows and provides training seminars on sales and marketing.