“Be careful what you wish for …”
– Brad Sills
It was more than 11 years ago that Brad Sills first started on his Olympic journey. Long before Vancouver’s bid for the 2010 Games hit the mainstream radar, years before the process became the plaything of politicians, Whistler’s favourite backcountry entrepreneur had already been bitten deeply by the bid bug.
And it’s a bite, he says, that he’s never quite recovered from…
“It all started back in May of 1997,” recalls Sills. “Hugh O’Reilly (Whistler’s mayor at the time) had called me into his office to meet with a couple of businessmen from Vancouver.” He lets a hint of a smile appear before he continues. “Turns out it was Arthur Griffiths and David Bentall,” he says. “And they had this crazy idea about promoting Vancouver/Whistler as Canada’s candidate for the 2010 Olympic bid. It was the first time I ever heard about it, and to be honest, it sounded like a real long-shot.”
Still, Sills was intrigued…
As the story goes, the Vancouverites had designated Lost Lake as their proposed Nordic site. “But Hugh knew already that could never work,” explains Sills. “That’s why he’d invited me to the meeting. He knew what the Callaghan Valley could bring to their bid. He also knew what the Callaghan could do for Whistler.”
O’Reilly had called in the right man. Since 1981, when Sills and his business partner Nick Slater had first applied to the Crown for permission to operate in the Powder Mountain region, their backcountry ski touring business had evolved from a rough-and-tumble enterprise to a much more sophisticated product. With every season, Callaghan Country — and its ancillary lodge — was gaining new adherents. But Sills knew there was still a long way to go.
Sills is one of those rare human beings who actually walk their talk. Born in St. Sauveur — in the very heart of the Laurentians — Sills grew up on the slopes of Owl’s Head in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. He moved to Whistler in 1973, and spent his early years in B.C. working in the bush for the Forest Service. A charter member of Whistler’s highly-respected Search And Rescue Team — “I consider founder Dave Cathers my mentor,” he says — Sills has probably logged more hours hiking, walking, climbing, riding, skiing (and flying) in the local backcountry than just about any other Whistlerite of his generation.