Skip to content

Richmond teacher finds new way to commute when it snows

“As teachers, I think it’s really important for us to model the behaviours we want our students in the world to do," said local teacher.
Andrea Phillpotts is a McMath secondary teacher.

“I’m not driving and we’re not carpooling today.”

This is what a Richmond McMath secondary teacher’s family would hear when the city gets a big dump of snow. But it’s not for the reason you’d expect.

Cross-country skiing is Andrea Phillpotts’s mode of transport to work during the rare snowfall in Richmond. She's also probably one of the rare individuals who enjoy commuting to work during the snow dump ⁠— unlike most people.

“It’s ideal to cross-country ski in Richmond because it’s flat,” said Phillpotts, adding the city is “well-designed in terms of paths and public areas.”

“You don’t have to go on the main streets since we have great parks, greenways and even our dikes.”

Phillpotts, who is an outdoor education teacher, said it takes roughly 30 to 35 minutes for her to get to school, which is considered a “good exercise before work.”

And she's no stranger to turning heads and curious stares during her commute as not many are familiar with Nordic skiing.

"Pretty much everyone loves it when they see me sliding by," said Phillpotts.

"Except my son, who is mortified."

Positive comments from passersby, such as "Whoa, a great idea," or "Yeah go for it and way to go," add to her enthusiasm for heading into work, she explained.

However, the same can’t be said when Phillpotts is on her way home after school.

Dismounting and carrying her skis home is a common occurrence when she hits pavement where snow has either melted or shovelled, she explained.

“It’s not a big deal. I can sometimes ski over small patches, but if I need to carry them then I will. It’ll just look a little funny.”

When asked why she skis to school, Phillpotts told the Richmond News that this is her way of reminding people about “moving locally in a carbon-friendly way” and not always relying on vehicles.

She added that she is also trying to set an example for her students to do the same.

“As teachers, I think it’s really important for us to model the behaviours, we want our students in the world to do.

“Powering yourself through the snow, such as on skis, is very normal in different parts of the world and staying fit is important as well.”