Life as a local: Giving back through fire training

Joss Advocaat during a training exercise. Photo supplied

Those who know Joss Advocaat in his professional life, as training officer for Sun Peaks Fire Rescue (SPFR), know a 23-year-old who is responsible and mature beyond his age.

But between 2011 and 2016 he focused on going as fast as he could on skis as he competed in speed skiing races in Sun Peaks and around the world. Throwing caution to the wind he flew down steep courses without fear.

Advocaat was born in Kamloops and returned with his family in 2009 to live on a property near Whitecroft. He commuted to school in Kamloops each day until graduating in 2013.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said.

So he tried a bit of everything. Despite not being a golfer he worked on the golf course; he spent late nights smoothing runs as a groomer, and years in maintenance at the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel.

In 2009 he saw the Velocity Challenge for the first time and decided to take part. In his first year he took home gold in the junior category.

“It felt good, I got hooked.”

The next year Advocaat donned the tight rubber suit, aerodynamic helmet and 238 cm skis to compete in the Speed One category. A few years later at 20-years-old he qualified to compete abroad, travelling to Grandvalira, Andorra.

Advocaat in Andorra. Photo supplied

After his personal best performance he was invited to compete in Vars, France.

“In Andorra I got invited to France. I just agreed because I knew that things would work out regardless of what was going on, but I didn’t expect the response from the community that I got.”

A fundraiser at home and donations from businesses and individuals in Sun Peaks raised funds for the extended trip.

But his racing career came to a halt after two accidents on the course in France.
“I crashed in training, then had to race the next day or disqualify,” he said. “I didn’t want to let anyone down. It was super disorienting, I couldn’t comprehend what was going on until I stopped sliding.

“It felt really good to be home after nearly a month. I didn’t accomplish my goal but people were still stoked for me. I felt down on myself but coming back was a good feeling.”

He no longer races but still sits on the board of directors for the Sun Peaks Speed Skiing Club and helps the group when he can.

In 2015 he joined SPFR as a volunteer and after his return to Canada it became a way for him to give back to the community that supported him while he competed and chased his dream.

“I didn’t think of it as a career,” he said. “I realized halfway through (training) this was something I wanted to pursue.”

He completed courses like driving, first aid and firefighter training. After realizing how much he enjoyed teaching others he completed countless instructor training courses to become an instructor.

“There was lots of courses and training to do,” he said. “And I still have tons to do. It really appeals to me because 30 years from now I’ll still have lots to learn.”

Advocaat is one of the youngest, if not the youngest, training officers in the province. Photo supplied

After two years of training Advocaat had the opportunity to take over from the previous training officer and jumped in.

“A job in Sun Peaks never crossed my mind, I thought I would have to move. I definitely got lucky.

“Now in my job and not in speed skiing, I can’t give back to speed skiing as much. But I can give back to the community. The thing about being a local is making other people better in Sun Peaks.”

For Advocaat that can be helping someone through work or showing a tourist a sweet spot on a powder day.

“One part of my job that’s super satisfying is to see other people succeed and get their careers started and see these people go out and make a difference in and out of Sun Peaks.

“It’s our duty to show people what it’s like, to interact with guests and be a bit of a tour guide. It’s cool that you get to meet a random person on the chair and go ski with them.”
He isn’t sure what the future holds but said no matter what Sun Peaks will have a special place in his heart.

“Whenever anything bad happens in our community I think back to that (the help he received in France) and think that we’ll rally behind them no matter who or what it is and that’s been demonstrated a number of times. It makes me feel happy knowing if anybody in our community would ever need help that we’re quite capable of providing that help for them.

“My family is here but also a lot of people I have as an extended family.”