“Skiing is a dying sport. And we have
nobody to blame but ourselves. If we want this business to survive, we have to
make it fun for families again!”
– Charlie Locke
By Michel Beaudry
Lake Louise received an early Christmas present this year. In a startling series of events that still has ski industry cognoscenti shaking their collective heads in wonder, the inimitable Charlie Locke rose up from what seemed like a financial knockout punch five years back to regain control of his old home hill just in time for the 2008-09 season.
“I didn’t like retirement,” explains the wily old entrepreneur with tongue-in-cheek good cheer. And then his expression changes. “But seriously,” he adds, “I just couldn’t stand by and watch Lake Louise suffer anymore.”
He wants to make sure I understand, however, that there’s no animosity between himself and RCR (Resorts of the Canadian Rockies), the multi-resort company he founded and then lost control of. “Both parties felt that my focusing on Lake Louise, with all the challenges and opportunities associated with being in the park, would ultimately have the best outcome for all parties and all resorts,” he says. And then he recites a poem for me.
For fame and fortune I travelled the earth,
But now I’ve come back to the land of my
I’ve brought back my treasures only to
That they’re less than the pleasures that I
For these are my mountains and this is my
And the trails of my childhood will see me again .
“That’s really why I came back,” he says. “I just couldn’t stay away.”
It’s easy to dismiss a guy like Charlie Locke. I mean, what’s a poem-declaiming sentimental old fart doing running a big-time ski resort anyway? But it’s not that simple. For no matter how it’s spun by his rivals — no matter how it’s dismissed by the proponents of the bigger-is-better model of resort exploitation — Charlie’s return to the helm of this unique mountain gem is a clear victory for anyone who truly loves to slide on snow in winter time.