Dispatches 

Making the most of mountains

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Some kids just can't shake the mountains. Despite leaving the continent, Whistlerite Marissa Mathews is one of them. The 24-year-old has snow and granite in her blood and it's this passion for outdoor sports and mountain culture that landed her a coveted internship with the International Ski Federation (FIS) in Switzerland.

"Growing up between Whistler and Vancouver has shown me the best the world has to offer, if you ask me," said Mathews during an email interview from her apartment in Bern, Switzerland. "I couldn't love the outdoors more and that's what drives me at work every day."

Though her duties for FIS have been in constant flux since she started a month ago, Mathews holds the title of marketing projects assistant. She juggles a wide number of tasks, be it sponsor guidelines, season accreditation or helping with the logistics of a charity gala. She's used to being flexible in the high-level sporting world - during the Vancouver 2010 Games she worked as the NOC assistant responsible for the athletes and officials of the Swiss delegation. She has also worked for her dad's company, Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners, an international resort planning firm.

"It was more a sequence of events that unfolded that ultimately pointed me into the direction of the FIS," she said. "Growing up in the mountains, having a love for travel and languages and then ultimately having the opportunity to work for our beloved Games would be most notable."

After completing high school Mathews spent a year in Switzerland working as an au pair, travelling and learning German in her spare time. Upon her return she attended UBC, where she studied economics. Armed with a degree and the languages of French, German and English, Mathews was a good fit for the multi-cultural FIS and is more than content to soak up the European way while she's at it.

"Europe's great because it's got options. If you feel like riding with snowboarders all day you head up to Laax, if you're craving groomers in the sun Lech is not bad, and then there's tons of smaller resorts that don't get chewed out too quick when the snow falls, not to mention these Euros love their groomers," she said. "Let's just say if ski school tried to cut the line on a powder day there wouldn't be an uproar."

Despite the variety of European ski and mountain bike options at her fingertips, Mathews misses the deep-rooted understanding of her local community.

"I will be missing my local riding crew for sure. Knowing the mountains inside and out, driving home from a good day up the hill with the pink and orange sunsets lighting up the mountains up near Wedge on a clear December day and arriving to a late afternoon hockey game with (family friends) the Burgesses on Alta Lake," she said of some of her favourite Whistler traditions. "Nothing will ever compare to home in that sense."

As for where the FIS internship and European experience will take her, Mathews remains open to whatever eclectic future paths unfold before her.

"As a recent university graduate, I am really just looking towards new experiences right now," she said. "I want to learn in other ways and explore what the work world has to offer. Eventually I will get my MBA but before that I want something to bring to the table, so to speak, when I get back into the classroom. I feel like I need to grow before I learn more, if you know what I mean."

Mathews's internship will run the year until next August.

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