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But it’s not just about pleasing customers. “There are people in this community,” says Brownlie, “who are working really hard to make this place as great as it can be. And no — we don’t always get it right. But believe me, most communities in Western Canada would happily exchange their problems for ours. Just look at the work that went into the production of the Whistler 2020 document. It’s an incredible framework for the future. Our task now as a community is finding practical ways to implement its principles…”
Born and raised in Burnaby, Brownlie was first introduced to Whistler in the late 1960s by his uncle Les Norman. “I didn’t ski at the time,” he recounts, “But we sure had a great time playing in the snow.”
He finally caught the ski bug in Junior High. “Hockey was always my first love,” he says. “But skiing made me laugh. It was just so much fun.” Encouraged by Uncle Les, Brownlie started exploring the possibilities of his newfound passion. “Any chance I got, I’d sneak up to Whistler,” he remembers.
He eventually crossed town to attend UBC where he studied commerce and played varsity hockey — “and still snuck up to Whistler as much as I could,” he tells me. On graduation, he decided to article for an accounting firm in downtown Vancouver. That’s where he saw the posting for an auditing job at Blackcomb Mountain. “So I went to the partner responsible for that project and convinced him that I was the man he needed,” he says. The year was 1986 (the same year, coincidentally, that Intrawest got involved at Whistler).
“Every time I came up to Whistler to do my auditing work, I fell in love with the place a little more,” he says. “I loved the mountain environment. I loved the people at Whistler — loved their energy and go-for-it attitude. So I started bugging (Intrawest executive) Gary Raymond about getting a job at the mountain…”
When Blackcomb Mountain advertised for a new director of finance, Brownlie was one of the first to apply. “But I got a ‘dear john’ letter,” he says. “I don’t know why. Maybe they thought I was too young and inexperienced. Whatever. They weren’t interested.”