Weekend Warrior: BlueShore Financial’s Deborah Best keeps an eye out for danger on Grouse Mountain

The HR manager and ski patroller is driven by a desire to help people

Edmonton-born Deborah Best first skied Grouse Mountain in 1992, just after moving to North Vancouver with a psychology degree from the University of Manitoba. She remembers how her friend, a local, skied the Cut in three minutes, then waited as Best snowplowed down in 20. “She said she didn’t want to ski with me because I was too slow,” Best says wryly. “Last year I took her again… and she’s like, Wow, what happened to you?”

Three decades in B.C. is what happened: in addition to climbing up the HR departments of multiple financial institutions and investment companies in Vancouver, Best has spent much of her time in B.C. on a literal mountain. Then, while shopping at MEC in 2017, she decided to respond to a Grouse Mountain ad calling for ski patrollers.

“That’s perfect,” she thought when she saw the ad, because she previously had first-aid certification from being a Girl Guide leader for 15 years, and she was already going out of her way regularly to help strangers on the slopes. “My friends always expect me to stop two, three, four times to help other people, and they end up waiting for me,” says Best. “I remember times that I’ve hurt myself skiing and I think about how helpful it would be to have someone stop, so I’m just naturally drawn to help anybody who seems like they need a hand.”

Best now serves as one of four team captains on Grouse Mountain’s voluntary First Aid Ski Patrol team, which supplements paid patrollers in eight-hour shifts on the weekends. Every other Sunday, Best hits the slopes in her red jacket, armed with a radio and a backpack full of medical supplies, to help however she can: implementing safety measures, giving people rides up the mountain, shovelling snow, you name it. “As long as there’s been skiing on Grouse Mountain, there has been a volunteer ski patrol,” she says.

Volunteers are often the first responders in a crisis—like when Best arrived to help someone who had broken their skis and boot on one of the top runs on the mountain. “How do you help this person on a very steep slope that a snowmobile can’t get to, but they took their boot off, and it’s broken?” she says. “The boot was not great, but I tensor-bandaged it to hold it in place long enough, and then the person slid down on their bum while I held their skis. And when we got to a certain part, we had a snowmobile come and
get them.”

Outside of patrolling, Best skis an additional 10 times a year. She wishes she could do it more, but she’s pressed for time as she completes an MSc from the University of Illinois (remotely) and leads human resources at North Vancouver-based BlueShore Financial credit union.

Best came into her role at BlueShore last year, after 10 years as the head of HR at investment banking company Raymond James. “I was thrilled to rejoin [BlueShore],” she says, referring to a brief stint she had there as an HR advisor in 1994. “I’ve been a champion for flexible work since the mid-’90s, including remote work, flexible retirement and flexible benefits. In each organization I’ve worked with, I’ve brought forward practices that are cost-effective yet have high employee value—win-wins.”

A desire to help people runs through many of the positions Best has held in her life: Girl Guide leader, HR manager, ski patroller. And Grouse Mountain earned a special place in her heart as it watched her grow along the way: from a novice skier to a regular patroller, and from a newly married professional to a mother of two young adults.

“One time I took my daughter night skiing when she was eight years old,” says Best. “I explained to her on the drive up that my version of heaven on earth is the joy of skiing together… As we skied the Cut, she found a jump along the run and lit up with excitement. As she skied past me, I heard her yell back, ‘I understand what you mean, Mom, this is like heaven on earth!’”

Warrior Spotlight

North Vancouver-based credit union BlueShore Financial offers personal and business banking and wealth management as well as insurance and commercial lending solutions. It’s been operating for almost 90 years and has grown to a team of 390 across 12 locations in B.C. Chief HR officer Deborah Best manages a team of 16. With $6.9 billion assets under administration, the financial institution reported $19 million in profit for the 2022 financial year.