By Peter Lavalley, Qu’Appelle Zone, Saskatchewan Division (

(Note: reprinted from the Saskatchewan Division website with the author’s permission.)


Ski resorts across the Prairies, and elsewhere in Canada, have witnessed increases in immigrant participation in skiing and snowboarding over the last decade. In the article, “How Immigrants Become Truly Canadian: On the Ski Slopes” newcomers express how they see skiing and snowboarding as ways to enjoy and participate in Canadian life and culture. Recent years may also have seen an increase in ski patrollers who were immigrants to Canada in the not-too-distant past.

The involvement of immigrants in skiing and snowboarding bodes well for the future of these sports in Canada, as their survival depends on increasing participation (and snow). At the same time, providing first aid to people from countries where English was not widely studied or spoken can create challenges for ski patrollers.

While some challenges are cultural, others are language related. Depending on their country of origin, immigrants may have different expectations for how medical treatment is provided, what it involves, who is involved, the gender of the first responder, etc. They may also be unfamiliar with the vocabulary and expressions that ski patrollers use while they are assessing injuries.

Language limitations may create communication challenges that interfere with providing and receiving needed first aid. Examples of communication challenges include:

  • Immigrants who require medical attention but don’t speak English well enough to understand and respond to the ski patroller’s assessment questions.
  • Immigrants who don’t have the language skills to describe their pain and other symptoms in a way that helps the ski patroller make an accurate diagnosis.
  • Ski patrollers’ inability to use the immigrant’s native language to reassure them that their medical needs will be met and that they will be OK.

One wonders about the incidence of communication challenges in providing first aid and preventive services to immigrants with poor English language skills. Are there communication aides and strategies that help ski patrollers to be more effective in their interactions with immigrants? What have other zones found to be effective when communicating on the slopes with persons who have low English language skills?

The CSP – Qu’Appelle Zone is interested in finding answers to these questions. Anyone with relevant information or an interest in discussing and answering these questions is invited to contact Peter Lavalley, a member of the CSP – Qu’Appelle Zone at

Reference: How Immigrants Become Truly Canadian: On the Ski Slopes by Dan Levin (Retrieved Feb. 4, 2019)

Communicating with skiers and snowboarders with poor English language skills

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