One of the founding fathers of Whistler, and “one of the smartest guys in the ski business,” is retiring.
Hugh Smythe, who moved to Whistler in 1966 at the age of 19 to work as a ski patroller, will be stepping down as Senior Vice President of Intrawest Mountain Resorts on March 12.
“It’s one of those days. There’s the euphoria and excitement of doing something new, and the nostalgia of leaving something behind,” Smythe said Monday.
Family, friends and health were some of the personal priorities he cited in deciding to shift his focus after 43 years in the ski business.
“I’ve had a few friends with health problems, a few who’ve passed away. I just looked in the mirror,” Smythe said.
But he emphasized he’s not going anywhere. He will remain an advisor to Intrawest and is looking forward to the next year, particularly the Olympics.
“I want to experience that as a local.”
Smythe, 62, has been present at, and played a role in, almost all of the key moments in Whistler’s development as a mountain resort. Among the highlights he listed are: leading the group that was awarded the rights to develop Blackcomb in the 1970s and the opening of Blackcomb and Whistler Village in December 1980; meeting Intrawest CEO Joe Houssian in 1986 and convincing Intrawest to buy into Blackcomb; bringing a T-bar to Blackcomb from Alberta’s Fortress Mountain and opening up the 7 th Heaven area in 1985; spearheading Intrawest’s expansion to other mountain resorts; bringing Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb together as one company in 1996; the awarding of the 2010 Olympics in July 2003; and the opening of the Peak 2 Peak gondola last December.
“It feels like a chronology, points in time you look back and go ‘wow, that was amazing.’
“I was extremely lucky to be given opportunities and challenges at a young age,” said Smythe, who was leading the Whistler Mountain Ski Patrol at the age of 21. “I wanted to make sure our staff had the same opportunities.”