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Alta states

Tom Thomson: Charting a course for the future



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They found refuge that night at the Christiana Inn. "For three bucks a head," remembers Thomson, "we got to sleep on the floor of the main room - right by the fireplace." Yet another wave of laughter. "But we had to get up at 5 the next morning because that's when the first guests were expected for breakfast."

Who knows what might have happened if the young football player had convinced his friends to leave Whistler after that first day. But he didn't. And when they woke up the next morning the sun had come out. "It was a bluebird day," says Thomson. "And there was all this new snow. So we rushed through breakfast and quickly made it to the hill."

There are moments in life that can determine one's future in the blink of an eye. For Thomson that morning provided such a moment. "We climbed up above Whistler Bowl and I looked down at the valley and I can still remember saying to myself: 'I'm going to live here someday...' And I was completely serious. That was my new goal in life."

Meanwhile though, there was the small detail of making a living. Thomson toyed with being a school administrator - he even got halfway through his doctorate at UBC in that discipline - but in the end, he realized that teaching kids was what he really liked to do. So for the next 30 years, that's what he did. "I was known to the kids at Eric Hamber High School as Mr. T," he says. "And every now and then I'll see one of my former students at Whistler. 'Hey Mr T,' they'll say. 'Remember those things that you taught me about and told me to look into? Well, I did. And now that's what I do.'"

Surely Thomson's seemingly unbounded energy needed more outlets than just teaching. "You're right," he says. "Teaching high school was just my week-day job. In the summer I did the marine patrol for a Vancouver radio station and in the winter I did the snow report for them." He stops. Just a hint of humour flashes across his eyes. "It was pretty funny actually. I would do my snow reports during basketball practice in the morning. You could actually hear the balls bouncing against the floor on the radio..."