Connie MacDonald, Former Communications Manager, Canadian Mountain Holidays
As part of its Second Nature program —which promotes environmental and community initiatives — Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) gave out approximately $250,000 last year in:
- Scholarships to high-school students
- Donations and sponsorships to community organizations
- Funding to universities and associations for academic research on safety and wildlife issues
Sustainable corporate citizens
CMH maintains a staff roster of nearly 500 people during its peak operating season, ranging from guides, chefs, housekeepers and pilots to lodge managers.
According to Connie MacDonald, the company's former communications manager, "Our turnover is generally very low compared to most seasonal businesses. Last year we hired [fewer] than 50 new employees across our entire company. We definitely strive to be the employer of choice, but our interest in supporting local communities extends well beyond this."
This generosity is rooted in the company’s philosophy and its goal to be responsible stewards of the environments and communities in which they live, work and play.
Long-term initiatives make impact
Connie says that CMH has been giving scholarships to local kids for many years. It offers nine scholarships for high school students from Nakusp, Valemount, Revelstoke, McBride, Golden and Invermere, underwriting post-secondary education in environmental studies, outdoor recreation or adventure tourism.
CMH has also paid for a group of high school students attending the tourism program at Golden Secondary School to take the Recreation Avalanche Course offered through the Canadian Avalanche Association. These young people may not grow up to be mountain guides, but as CMH wants them to know safety skills if they travel in the backcountry during snow season.
Commercial cooking project
Given its generous reputation, CMH is frequently asked for contributions. When a local school district asked Connie to contribute to building its new high school, she suggested that CMH help fund the development of a commercial kitchen. CMH employs more than 50 chefs at its lodges, and there are many businesses needing trained food-and-beverage staff.
After discussing the concept with the community, the local college and other private-public partners, the school district is now involved in developing a college-level culinary program. Ideally, the program and facility will be operational within the next 18 months for both high school and college students at Valemount Secondary School.
This project will benefit both the immediate and surrounding communities by creating a skilled workforce of food and beverage staff.
CMH also feels it can contribute to the program by:
- involving its chefs in the classroom
- providing seasonal training opportunities to students
- developing apprenticeship/mentoring programs
Good public relations
A large part of Connie’s job is to find opportunities like the food-service program in local communities for CMH to invest in.
CMH's philosophy is simple, she says. "As a community donor, it’s easy to write a cheque to support a local group and then wait to hear from them again in 12 months. However, I believe that real lasting value comes to the community and CMH when we enter into partnerships in a more dynamic way."