Jackie Ohnander was one of three female lead guides on the Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse last summer.

Local piano teacher doubled as Via Ferrata guide last summer

Jackie Ohnander has an extensive background in music, but she also has plenty of experience with the great outdoors.

Jackie Ohnander has an extensive background in music, but she also has plenty of experience with the great outdoors.

Over the past year, she has managed to use that varied experience as both a piano teacher and Via Ferrata guide, giving her a unique, Goldenesque resume.

Having grown up in Saskatchewan, Ohnander moved west to experience the mountains, beginning with Lake Louise, but then moving to Golden.

“I just liked how small and non-touristy it was. I liked the feel of the town,” she said.

She’s been teaching piano for approximately 15 years and began her business, Jackie Ohnander Music Studio, seven years ago, although that includes a year break, which she spent travelling in Nepal.

Her 65 students range in age from two all the way up to 70, meaning she has to have a very adaptable lesson plan.

A big part of her teaching philosophy comes down to motivation, something that Ohnander admits she lacked when it came to music in her youth.

“I think, if I can motivate a student to want to learn and to be excited to learn, then I feel like I’m doing my job well,” she said.

“For the kids now, I feel like to keep them engaged with the style of music that they’re learning is the biggest thing.”

Ohnander teaches piano primarily but she teaches guitar and saxophone as well.

Last summer Ohnander got the chance to work as a guide on the Via Ferrata, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort’s latest summer offering that allows guests to take a guided trip up a set course to the top of Terminator Peak.

“It was awesome, it was a super fun summer running up and down Terminator Peak numerous times a day,” she said.

Three of the resort’s four primary guides were women, something that Ohnander says was a surprise to some of the Via’s clients.

“Numerous people commented how there were three female guides and one male,” she said. “Some would comment…’Oh, I can’t believe there are so many women’,” she said.

“I guess it’s kind of surprising that that still factors into people’s minds, that it’s something that needs to be brought up. I don’t think it really affected my summer at all, it was just mentioned a few times. I would joke around about it,” she said.

Funnily enough, it was some of Ohnander’s biggest doubters that inevitably needed the most help when out on the Via.

“It was kind of rewarding to be able to show them ‘hey, you know, I helped your ass get through there’,” she laughed.


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