Opinion » Alta States

Last of the Perry brothers

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, BEGIN IT. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

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When Whistler-Blackcomb let David Perry slip through their fingers six years ago, I wasn’t sure that Intrawest’s brain trust realized what they were losing. The energetic former VP of Marketing & Sales had done everything he could to let it be known that he was ready to stay put; all he needed was a sign that he was wanted. "It really wasn’t about money," he told me. "It was more about respect. I wanted assurances that I had a future here." The hoped-for signal never came and Perry moved to Colorado where he set about orchestrating an impressive turnaround at Aspen.

When Whistler-Blackcomb’s David Brownlie signed the final papers last week that sent Doug Perry packing in turn, I really started to wonder. A 23-year resident of Whistler, the younger Perry had parlayed a modest spring skiing event into the biggest – and most copied – art, sports and music festival in the mountain resort world. And that’s no cheap hyperbole. The World Ski and Snowboard Festival totally revolutionized the concept of mountain celebrations. "The personality of the festival was built on three pillars – art, music and sports," explains Perry. "And the magic really started to happen when these three pillars fused together to create an ambiance that truly reflected the modern mountain lifestyle."

Magic indeed. The quintessential outside-the-box thinker – and a man with skiing connections around the world – Perry’s stroke of genius was to continuously challenge the best in the business to come up with new events and new ideas for his festival. Nothing ever remained the same from year-to-year. Nothing ever got old or stale. "I wanted to keep the suspense high," he says. " I wanted to surprise festival-goers each April with something that was totally unexpected..."

Which is exactly what he did. If the goal was to put on a new-school skiing event, Perry would assemble an advisory board made up of the best young skiers in the sport. If the event had to do with photography, he would approach the best shooters in the business for their counsel. No idea was too outrageous. No concept was out-of-bounds. The attitude was "Why not?" instead of "No way."

And it worked. Suddenly Whistler was the place where everybody congregated at the end of the season to celebrate mountain culture under all its various guises and personalities. Sure – it helped that snow conditions here in April kick ass. And that late spring in Whistler highlights all that is unique and special about Coast Mountain life. But it was the festival spotlight that drew people here in the first place. It was the unconventional work of Perry and his cohorts that attracted all the media attention.

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