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Honouring their second home

American Friends of Whistler foster community development through engagement and dynamic philanthropy



Like so many established Whistler residents, Mary Forseth came for the snow, but ultimately stayed for the community. And like so many wannabe residents before them, Mary and her husband faced a familiar challenge: what could they do for a living that would allow them to make a life in this mountain paradise?

When her husband, Doug Forseth, secured an exciting career opportunity with the then singular Whistler Mountain, the couple had already logged considerable time as part-time residents. By the time Whistler and Blackcomb merged under the Intrawest banner in 1997, Mary and Doug were committed: Whistler would be home to this American couple.

Mary, now co-owner of the Adele Campbell Gallery, recently recalled how she and her husband first came to Whistler.

“We were living in Washington, DC then. Doug came home and said he was being transferred to Vancouver,” she recalls.

It was 1985 and Whistler had yet to really gain a footing on the international ski scene. Despite being raised in northeastern Washington State, Mary was unaware of the resort and a little skeptical when her husband said, “I think there’s a ski resort north of Vancouver.”

Mary recalls that a drive north on a beautiful summer day left the two of them smitten.

“That winter we rented a condo with another family. We fell totally in love with the place and bought our first little condo here.”

But again, a transfer came, and this time the Forseths found themselves heading south to San Diego. And then in 1994, while still in Southern California, Doug got a job offer from Whistler Mountain. It came at the perfect time. The Forseths were ready for a change.

“We’re here. And we’re never leaving,” says Mary, the joy evident in her voice.

In the early days at Whistler, the former fitness instructor/Phys Ed teacher, who had worked at such high calibre institutions as Washington State University, was a snowshoe guide. While today her commitment to her business leaves little time for such leisure pursuits, she still manages to pull on her guiding toque once a year for a group that she’s passionate about: the American Friends of Whistler (AFOW).

Both Mary and her husband were born and raised in the U.S. (Doug now enjoys dual citizenship.) By fulfilling a social obligation to friends, they became peripherally involved in the initial development of American Friends of Whistler — an organization for which Mary now sits on the board.

She recalls not being particularly enthused about heading up to the Chateau Whistler’s Mallard Lounge several years ago to give yet another set of “friends of friends” the skinny on Whistler. Her trepidation soon gave way: The two couples got on like the proverbial house on fire. By the end of the weekend the visiting couple had purchased a home in Whistler and the seeds of one of the community’s most important philanthropic groups had been planted. Simon Levin had come to Whistler. Soon Levin would meet Jeff Harbers and the idea to develop an American charitable organization in the Whistler community started to gain momentum.

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