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McSkimming receives Jim Marshall Leadership Award

Whistler Blackcomb legend recognized for bevy of accomplishments

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Many of Rob McSkimming's most significant accomplishments with Whistler Blackcomb were in the mountain-biking realm, but that hasn't stopped the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) from recognizing his all-season vision.

On April 29, McSkimming was announced as the winner of the CWSAA's 2020 Jim Marshall Leadership Award, which is given to someone who is "recognized for their exceptional skills and dedication to their chosen profession and has made meaningful contribution to the sport of recreational skiing."

The CWSAA board of directors and past chairs choose the recipient annually and, in normal years, the award is presented at the group's spring conference.

In its write-up on McSkimming, the board said the approach he took to making the bike park a reality encapsulates his significance to the ski industry.

"This is one of many examples of Rob's ability to dream, plan and execute big ideas. Rob is one of those visionary leaders and that is why Rob has a loyal team that loves to work for him," it read. "Rob built a strong team and was a mentor to many—building and developing the park, evolving trail design to create the first machine-built jump trail, A-LINE. Like everything that Rob does, he never stops at one success, but [looks] for options to drive the success further."

With the accolade, McSkimming joins a group that includes several Whistler luminaries, including Hugh Smythe, Doug Forseth and Franz Wilhelmsen.

"That definitely put things into perspective," said McSkimming on April 30 when reached about the award. "You look at that list and you go at first, 'I'm not sure that I belong in that club, but it sure is a nice club to be part of.'

"There are a lot of people I've worked with, some closer than others, but who I've always had tons and tons of respect for.

"It's nice to have your name in that sort of company."

McSkimming got word of the award a few days beforehand from Whistler Blackcomb's (WB) president of mountain operations, Doug MacFarlane.

"I was totally shocked and surprised, for sure. It came out of the blue. It was not something I had really thought about or expected in any way," he said.

Among McSkimming's many accomplishments during his 38 years with WB are: envisioning the potential of lift-accessible mountain biking and helping to create the Whistler Mountain Bike Park; developing the Crankworx mountain bike festival, which has subsequently expanded into a three-stop world tour; and while director of the ski school, working with Bart Barczynski to host the inaugural Never Ever Days at WB to bring new skiers to the sport.

In its write-up, the CWSAA noted that the bike park's success in Whistler helped raise the sport's profile across the continent and served as an inspiration and boon to several of its own member resorts.

"It's certainly something that has shifted over time and I've been fortunate enough to be part of that transition. It's interesting to see that shift," McSkimming said. "As destination resorts started to emerge, and you had the investment that went along with that, with hotels and various retail, rental and commercial operations, it wasn't too long before everybody figured out that it would make more sense business-wise if you could keep those businesses going, at some level, for as long as possible in the year."

In addition to seeing his projects in the bike park thrive and Crankworx go international, with events on three continents, McSkimming also looked back fondly at the merger between Whistler and Blackcomb in 1997.

"It's really being part of the team that helped to see Whistler Blackcomb through its formative years," he said. "Having the opportunity to be part of that process was a highlight."

McSkimming retired from WB in 2018, and while he's enjoyed his time skiing and biking, he has some mixed feelings about not being with the company as the mountain, and industry as a whole, navigates the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In some ways, you feel like you want to be a part of it somehow. Sitting on the sidelines feels kind of weird, to be honest," he said.

As well, McSkimming is remaining active in the industry as a consultant with Whistler-based Select Contracts.

"We're working with various other resorts and helping them develop their four-season opportunities," he said. "It's been fun to get to know other resorts and see other situations after working so long with Whistler Blackcomb."

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