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Reflections on Hugh
I want to thank you for the kind words in reference to Hugh Smythe (Pique March 5th). Hugh Smythe’s vision continues to shape Whistler.
Your editorial brought back many memories; one that popped right up was sitting with “little Leo” in the roundhouse after Blackcomb opened and telling him their (Blackcomb’s) soup was much better than his famous clam chowder. His reply was “do what I do, get a couple of the butter packets from the condiment area as well as some salt, pepper and the Tabasco sauce and make it taste better.” No thought as to making the overall experience better for the guest.
Meanwhile over on Blackcomb they were striving to change the perception/reality of ski area operations. Whistler wasn’t alone with their philosophy. I learnt to ski at Blue Mountain and the liftees back then were farmers, the schedule worked for them as the winter months were slower, but my memory is more of angry men resenting people with the free time and dollars to SKI!
Along comes Blackcomb liftees saying hello! A restaurant on top of the mountain, which offered fresh food with multiple choices as well as french fries. Even more outrageous, Christine’s, a restaurant with linen to satisfy a different ski crowd that we had yet to experience.
When I was president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1988, Dave Kirk and I went to Hugh Smythes office with the idea of a specially priced pass for employees, (this evolved into the “Spirit Pass” employees today benefit from). His response was, “We would be glad to participate but in order for it to be successful for the resort we will only do it if Whistler Mountain participates as well.” It was this type of gentle prodding which contributed to Whistler Blackcomb being recognized as the number one ski resort in North America.
A fitting tribute to Hugh is the renaming of the run on 7th Heaven to “Hugh’s Heaven” presented at his 60th birthday. A lasting legacy to our community besides all of the hard assets, including but not limited to the Peak 2 Peak, is his ability to be a mentor. In that role Hugh has contributed so much to our success and allowed so many of us to live a dream.
So thank you for reminding me of the pleasure of knowing and working with a true visionary.
P.S. Hugh, Thank you sir.