Mountain-Mentors-Brett-Trainor-Thea-Zerbe

MEC member spotlight: Mountain Mentors’ Brett Trainor

We love that you love getting outside. That’s why we’re profiling inspiring members across Canada who connect with their communities through active outdoor lifestyles.

Member: Brett Sandra Trainor
Member since: 2010
Activities: backcountry skiing, mountain biking, surfing and camping

Tell us about yourself. How do you like to get outside?

I was born and raised in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. I grew up cross-country ski racing and camping across BC. My professional background is in community development and fundraising. I’m currently pursuing an MBA at Simon Fraser University, with the end goal of using business acumen to help BC organizations succeed.

How did you come up with Mountain Mentors?

I have always found myself inspired by creative problem solvers, especially in fundraising and international development. Changing my internal dialogue from “I wish I could do something like that” to “what’s stopping me?” was the impetus for launching Mountain Mentors in 2016. My co-founder Thea Zerbe and I noticed a gap in outdoor programming for women and decided to do something actionable about it. What was originally a small, private Facebook group is now a strong community of outdoorswomen.

Thea and Brett at a Mountain Mentors Winter Kickoff Mingler event.

Thea and Brett touring on a sunny day, doing field research for future Mountain Mentors excursions.

Tell us about the program. What makes it great?

Mountain Mentors facilitates all-female alpine mentorship relationships for women in Vancouver and the Sea to Sky corridor. We see mentorship as a tool to grow the community of female outdoor leaders in backcountry skiing, climbing and mountain biking. We believe that you need to “see it to be it” – a mentor is a blueprint of possibility for what you can become – otherwise it can be difficult to imagine yourself reaching the heights you aspire to. Mentors are an invaluable resource for women with big dreams to boldly progress towards their goals in the mountains and in other aspects of their lives.

Who signs up for the mentorship program? What are they like?

We have a diverse cohort, including ski bums, working professionals, mothers and industry guides. We’ve had veteran ski patrollers, ACMG guides, PhD students, lawyers, teachers and young university graduates move through the program. There are no key characteristics necessary to be an effective mentor or mentee (beyond having AST1 training and the necessary safety gear). Successful mentorship relationships stem from shared goals and expectations, a commitment to learn and grow, and the willingness to invest time in the relationship.

A Mountain Mentors SkillShare session.

Mountain Mentors friends on a pow day.

Have you ever had a mentee go on to become a mentor?

Heck yeah! Oftentimes, a participant may be looking for growth and support in one sport, but be skilled in another. This has led to a sort of “co-mentorship,” where a ski mentor may become a mountain bike mentee the following season. It’s pretty rad. Watching the progression of our mentees is one of the most inspiring parts of our program; we’ve seen women cut their Strava times in half, climb grades they had previously feared and empower themselves to make safer decisions in avalanche terrain. We’re honoured to do our part in growing the female outdoor community.

Talk to us about being a woman in the outdoors.

I see a whole bunch of outdoor enthusiasts who participate in sport for the same reason, regardless of gender – there’s simply nothing like the feeling of being outdoors. Of course, there are characteristics associated with gender when operating in the backcountry; women are often incredibly skilled communicators and team players, employ a huge amount of compassion and are empowered by opportunities to socialize and connect with other likeminded individuals. I see a generation of women embracing a new definition of femininity and finding strength in their unique talents. I love watching a group diplomatically make decisions while moving through avalanche terrain, as our unique skills become assets in risky situations where safety is paramount.

How do you see the outdoor community?

We’re lucky to be part of such an open-minded and welcoming community and have been blown away by the positive support we’ve received, especially from our male friends and allies in the outdoor industry. We are encouraged when men ask us how they can get involved and support our programs – the desire for mentorship and growth exists in all demographics. Chilko Basecamps is a guiding organization run by our friend Sam that has given us expedition tents for winter SkillShare sessions. Our male friends have featured us in media like Mountain Life and Doglotion and photographed our experiences free of charge. It’s clear we aren’t the only ones passionate about making outdoor spaces more inclusive.

Winter camping with the Mountain Mentors 2018 cohort.

What is your vision for the future of Mountain Mentors?

When we launched, our goal was to create 10 mentorship pairs. We ended up receiving nearly 200 applications. Fast forward a year and a half and my vision for the program’s future has changed immensely. I now hope that we can structure the funding of our program in a sustainable way, so that we can compensate volunteers for their countless hours as well as add value for participants. I also hope to onboard a larger Board of Directors to help us grow strategically and focus on diversifying our program offerings.

What are your go-to trails, slopes or routes?

I love mountain biking on my home trails in Cumberland, BC, as well as “Fat Tug” in Pemberton. As for ski touring, there’s nothing like Blackcomb backcountry. I’m also in awe of the groomed Nordic skiing trail network in Norway.

Tell us about your perfect day outside.

One spent with people I care about and trust, winter camping, drinking hot coffee and skiing some deep powder in copious amounts.

What are your favourite MEC products?

My MEC hut booties! Perfect for prancing around on a soaking wet floor, running outside for midnight bathroom breaks and wearing into my sleeping bag on especially cold nights.

What is your hope for the future of the outdoor community?

That no one will feel like the outdoors aren’t for them.

Who do you follow or look up to?

Programs like Fast and Female, Ride Like A Girl and Girls Do Ski are all making a difference to inspire women to dream big and pursue their athletic dreams. I’m especially inspired by one of our mentors, Cathy Jewett, who has been a ski patroller with Whistler Blackcomb for over 30 years and really paved the way for women and mothers in the outdoor industry. She gives back to her community as a volunteer in countless capacities, including offering ski mentorship in our program, and her hard work and determination inspire me every day to keep carving out a space for women in the outdoors.

MEC is proud to support Brett and Thea’s mentorship efforts through the Community Contributions program via a grant to Mountain Mentors.


Ready to head out with Mountain Mentors? Get started by taking your AST1 certification (required for the program), and learn about the avalanche safety gear and training you’ll need for the backcountry.

Brett Trainor

Co-Founder of BC's Mountain Mentors program, business student and weekend pow slayer. Always ready to help you crush your backcountry ski goals.