March 7, 2024

This year, ahead of International Women’s Day, I had the privilege of sitting with Lisa Olsen – Snow School Manager and Shauna Byar – Snow School Supervisor. Between the 2 of them, they have 79 years of industry experience; Lisa with 29 and Shauna with 50.

Join me, Alex, in conversation with Lisa and Shauna to learn more about these 2 women, their journeys through the industry, and their words of advice for other women on the slopes!

Alex: Let’s start at the start – can you tell me about your first time skiing?

Lisa: Sure, it was at Edmonton Ski Club when I was probably 5 or 6. And then I just fell in love with it. I had an older brother who skied all the time and that’s where it started. We would ski all around Edmonton and Jasper.

Shauna: I don’t really remember because I was only 2 years old. My dad used to run the ski school and was the president of the Edmonton Ski Club. I used to go down there and would stand on the front of his skis as he would walk around on the snow. I was skiing very young – I had 2 older brothers I had to keep up with!

A: So then how did you get involved in working the ski industry, and what has your journey through the industry looked like?

L: I applied for a job at Snow Valley when I was in post-secondary for extra money. I started out as a liftie for Marlin, then I worked in the rental shop for a bit, then I got my CSIA level one. I started teaching but was always working in a couple of different departments. Then I became a Snow School supervisor in the early 2000s and I was also the school group coordinator for a while.

I then moved to Saskatchewan and worked at Wapiti Valley Ski Resort. I started working there in the Snow School and Guest Services departments. The job of Snow School director opened up and I took it. I ran their snow school for 7 years, then I came back to Edmonton and here I am!

S: I started teaching at ESC at age 14; back then there was no certification like now. By the time I was teaching, my dad was also running the Silver Summit ski school near Edson, so I would be there every weekend to help teach there too.

Then at about age 16, in 1975, I got certification. It was the first year the CSIA offered training. (Fun fact, Shauna’s CSIA number is 4 digits long… new CSIA numbers now are 6!)

I kept teaching, then I got my level 2 in 1979 up at Sunshine Village. Actually it was a very intense full-week course. We all stayed in the accommodations up at the hill, so there was great partying time in the evening with about 70 people in the course. Very fun!

A: Were/are there any barriers that you have met as a woman working in the ski industry?

L: No not at all – the whole industry is amazing. Everyone is really supportive of each other. It is very close-knit, so if you ever have any issues or need some support, everyone is there to help you. I’ve never faced any barriers at all.

S: I feel very fortunate – I have felt fairly equal treatment since the start. It is really fun to teach women skiing, and really build their confidence. Many of the women I’ve taught want to be able to ski with their families, and many times they need a different approach when they are first learning. The difference is confidence building. You need to really help give them the confidence with positive reinforcement so they can ski with their families and reach their own personal ski goals.

A: Okay, last question – what would you say to other women in the industry; some words of wisdom or pieces of advice you would share?

L: Just live your passion. If you love skiing – just do it!

S: Keep working towards your goals and your dreams. If you have the goals to hit your levels of certification – keep on going for that! Set your own personal goals; don’t let others set them for you. Get out there and have fun!

Thank you, Lisa and Shauna, for sharing your stories with us! Your passion for skiing and dedication to the industry truly shine through and can be an inspiration to us all.

Today as we celebrate International Women’s Day, and every other day, let’s all take a moment to appreciate the incredible women who contribute to the world of skiing and beyond.

See you on the slopes!

*note: interviews have been edited for length and clarity