March 8th is International Women’s day – a day of global celebration for social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This years campaign theme is #balanceforbetter and when it comes to women worth celebrating, we don’t have to look very far because there is no shortage of them here in Whistler. As such, we couldn’t think of a better way to show respect and gratitude for the women of our community representing a balance for better this March 8th, than by talking to a handful of them about success and what it takes to achieve your goals.


International Women’s Day, Balance for Better. Photo by Abby Cooper.

There are so many inspirational ladies leading the charge in this town, it was hard to only feature a few, but that just means there are more names for a second, third, fourth, and fifth edition of this blog.


How many times have you looked at the mountains that surround you and wished you were experienced or confident enough to go out and explore them? You’re not the only one. In fact, Brett Trainor and Thea Zerbe recognized that maybe there was something missing for women to bridge the gap between the intro level mountain courses and full-fledged leadership courses.  So what did they do? They built a bridge!

Friends from university Thea and Brett were looking for an opportunity to inspire and give back to the community before their program ever existed. As experienced mountain recreators they recognized that women have a unique way of learning. It was here the idea of an all-female outdoor mentorship program developed – Mountain Mentors. The program gives women opportunities to learn to confidently recreate in the mountains as mentees from women who have experience and knowledge recreating in the mountain, mentors.

Brett says that “being on the lookout for an opportunity and ready to kill it” is key for making your goals a reality. When the program launched in the fall of 2016, it received over 200 applications, now in its third year, the demand to be in the program continues to grow. As their Mountain Mentor community grows, it is evident they went for the kill!

The tremendous due that makes up Mountain Mentors, meet Brett (left) and Thea (right).


“We live in a time where no dream is too big”. Words that could not be truer coming from someone like Dominique Vallee. From professional snowboarder to Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC) and Acupuncture, Dom is an incredible role model, not just to women pursuing their passions but anyone with big aspirations for themselves.

Don’t be fooled, transitioning from professional athlete to Dr. of TMC doesn’t just happen overnight. For Dom, it meant juggling full-time studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine undergrad courses by correspondence, while still traveling and working as a professional snowboarder. The relentless to-do list and rewarding personal growth journey was dotted with doubt. That said, knowing that TMC was something she was truly passionate about and knowing that when she was done she would have the tools to help people, she persevered towards her goal of becoming a Dr. of TMC with gusto.

Never losing sight of the “why” behind your goal is imperative if you want to make it to the finish line. For Dr. Dom, helping people was a big reason behind her goal and she can proudly say she’s accomplished that when treating patients in her own clinic. Although “this was the hardest endeavor she’s ever embarked on, she is certain that it is the hardest endeavors that are the most rewarding.” We agree Dom, we agree!

Positive and humble Dom Vallee has dedicated her life to helping others progression after already having a full and successful career as a professional snowboarder. Photo by Abby Cooper.


Sam moved to B.C. 4 years ago with a degree in Gerontology and quickly discovered a new passion for something that sounds completely different – events and wedding planning. She says that it takes a certain type of person to deal with both older people and brides, the kind of person that loves helping people – not so different after all.

Not long after dipping her toe in the events world, she jumped in head first as the assistant general manager for festivals for Gibbons Whistler. While planning Gibbons Beer Festivals was exciting, her passion remained in the wedding world. Torn on what to do, she proposed a wedding planning division at Gibbons so she could have her wedding cake and eat it too!

She created the opportunity for herself and took action towards making it happen. While maintaining her position as AGM of festivals, she managed to build and launch Gibbons Weddings in her spare time and has been crushing it since. When asked what motivated her to have exactly what she wanted, she said: “Don’t stop trying until you are proud.”

Sam while prepping for someones special day – what Sam does best and she always does it with a smile on her face. Photo by local wedding photographer duo Toby and Katie.


A love of hockey and mountains was the initial draw to Whistler for the Slovakian photographer, Justa Jeskova.  However, it’s her love of the community that has kept her here for the last 18 years.

She did not come here as a photographer but has made her mark in Whistler as one. When she first arrived in Whistler she barely spoke English and worked as a nanny before discovering her love of photography and turning it into a business. It takes a lot of hard work and comes with many challenges, something that Justa is no stranger to. She thinks, if it were too easy it is probably not worth it.

While being a part of a community filled with talented friends who doubled as role models and mentors is something Justa found and still finds to be helpful in supporting one’s efforts to achieve your goals it’s her attitude towards failure that is exceptionally inspiring. “Failure is a powerful tool and nothing to be afraid of. It is what pushes you to continue to be better.”

Whistler photographer Justa Jeskova in her natural element.


Being born with a gift doesn’t mean that the journey to making that gift your career will be straight forward. Local musician Jenna Mae, comes from a musical family and her love of music came easy for her, but the path towards it becoming her career wasn’t as easy.

Switching gears between slopestyle snowboarding competitions in Calgary, working retail and managing snowboard camps in Whistler, to finding her musical groove somewhere between Vancouver and Toronto, it took some time for her to figure out how her love of singing could flourish a career in Whistler.

You’ve probably seen, or heard, Jenna Mae perform at Arts Whistler events, Dublin Gate, singing the National Anthem for at Fire and Ice on Sunday’s, or as the resident singer for the Mountaintop Feast; a goal she set for herself 8 years ago. Knowing where you want to be is important but “enjoying the journey, the feedback and the process is an essential part of making your dreams a reality.”

Gibbons has been lucky enough to have Jenna Mae and the Grove Section perform at multiple Beer Festivals over the years. Photo by Abby Cooper.


Spend a weekend at a Dirt Series mountain bike camp and you will understand why owner and founder, Candace Shadley started this business 18 years ago and still loves it today. Between the pre-camp warm-ups, the prizes from the incredible sponsors, bike clinics, the chatter between participants about their accomplishments that day, the energy and buzz over the two days is contagious. If you aren’t pumped on mountain biking when you arrive you will be when you leave.

The camps focus on helping to teach and improve upon existing mountain bike skills, but they also create a fun and supportive environment to build happier and more confident mountain bikers that want to come back year after year.  What began as three women’s only camps in BC, has grown into 28 camps in eight states and two provinces coaching mountain biking to women, and now men too!

When you genuinely care about how an individual feels after succeeding on their bike, you’re willing to do as much as you can for people to continue to experience that. For Candace, success comes down to choices.  “You have to work towards the goal and make choices every day that will get you there.”

Candace Shadley is happiest on her bike and she’s found a way to share her passion through Dirt Series. Photo by Mike Crane.


Here at Gibbons Whistler, we believe in being involved, supporting and helping the growth of our community. We hope that this sample of Whistler go-getters inspires you to live big, chase your dreams and pursue your passions. Local organizations like Women in Whistler or International Day of the Girl are both great organizations that continue to encourage, support and build a #balanceforbetter not just on International Women’s day but all year long and we could not be more proud to support them.

Brittia Thompson