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Alta States

Kirby Brown: A Down East heart in the Coast Mountains



"I grew up deeply embedded in tourism," says Kirby Brown, Whistler-Blackcomb’s Human Resources boss. Indeed. When you live in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and your dad manages the historic Bluenose II schooner, your life is tourism. "I virtually grew up in that boat," he says. "My father’s job had a profound impact on the way I viewed the world…"

Kirby wasn’t born in Lunenburg. But he might as well have been. "My dad was sick of city life," explains Brown. "He wanted to raise his family in a "real" community. So when I was four he uprooted the family from Quebec and moved east." It was a strange decision, given how tough times were in the Maritimes in the early 1970s. The cod fishery had just collapsed and unemployment was rampant. But the modest fishing community of Lunenburg was everything that Brown senior had dreamed off. You know – small town, ocean life and real people. Adds Kirby: "He found the ultimate job for a born again East Coaster – working for Nova Scotia tourism. And he put his heart and soul into it."

As director of operations for the Bluenose, Kirby’s dad got to sail up and down the eastern seaboard promoting the province and the schooner’s town of origin. And often he’d take his son along for the ride. "He was so passionate about where he lived, what Nova Scotia was all about. Remember – those were desperate times for Maritimers but my dad was tireless in his promotion of the place. And through him, I learned what a special town my adopted home really was."

He smiles. "At the core of it, it’s pretty simple. Lunenburgers have always known what they are about. Through good times, through hard times, they remain pretty much the same. They are so grounded in the history and culture of their community that they can roll with whatever fate has in store for them. And the town’s public celebrations reflect that fact. There’s nothing fake or inauthentic about a Lunenburg party. It’s all about celebrating who you are – and who your neighbours are too."

He stops speaking for a moment. And then he steps right into the main current of our discussion. "Whistler, on the other hand, seems to me to be a conglomeration of many communities rather than a full and integrated community. All of these different groups have found their private little piece of gold – and it strikes me that they all want to keep it to themselves..."

He smiles. Almost apologetically. But like his father, Kirby has a strong current of passion running through his soul. A guy who gets involved in things, the younger Brown has contributed to Whistler’s well-being on a number of different fronts – most recently as a board member for the Whistler Housing Association, a volunteer job he admits has not always been easy. "People come here and expect that everything will just fall into their laps. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of people work really hard in this community. They’ve made compromises and sacrifices to live in ‘paradise’. But when they see others getting big payoffs, they want in on it too!"

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