Hugh Smythe tourism industry leader of the year In 1966 at the age of 18, a young and ambitious ski patroller named Hugh Smythe began his career in Whistler, still a ski-bum’s paradise at best, but a long way from its present world-class status. Last week Smythe, president of resort operations group for Intrawest Corp., which operates Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains as well as nine other mountain resorts and the Sandestin resort in Florida, was recognized with the Tourism Industry Leader of the Year award at the first annual British Columbia Tourism Awards in the Coast Plaza Suite Hotel in Vancouver. The Tourism Awards recognize excellence and innovation in B.C.’s tourism industry. Smythe is one of a handful of people who have been in Whistler since skiing began here. He worked his way up through various positions on Whistler Mountain before leaving the area in the mid-70s to run Fortress Mountain in Alberta. He returned to Whistler in the late ’70s to oversee the development of Blackcomb, which opened in 1980. Six years later, Intrawest acquired controlling interest of Blackcomb Mountain. In 1997, Intrawest acquired Whistler Mountain. As a result of the pairing of two, world class mountains as one resort, Whistler-Blackcomb has experienced the greatest success of any mountain resort in recent history. Tourism BC president and CEO, Rod Harris, recognized Smythe’s achievements as a key figure in building Whistler-Blackcomb into a world-renowned, year-round recreation destination. Smythe’s foresight and dynamic way of thinking have been instrumental in driving B.C. to the forefront of winter tourism. "It is a tremendous honour to be recognized as the Tourism Industry Leader of the Year," Smythe said. "This prestigious award means a great deal to me — both personally and professionally. I really appreciate the support of the many great people that I have worked with over the years. Without them, I could not have achieved the successes that are recognized by this award." In addition to this honour from Tourism BC, Smythe was recently recognized by SKI Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the history of skiing. In the December, 1999 issue, both Smythe and Intrawest president, chairman and CEO, Joe Houssian, were lauded in the article which read: "(Houssian and Smythe) are the team behind Intrawest, North America’s, most successful resort operator and creator of the modern ski village. "Houssian, who started Intrawest in 1977, is the deal making guy with the financial acumen. Smythe is the field general with vision and the drive to make things happen."