"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."
- C. S. Lewis
We were deep in the heart of the Tatras Mountains. To the north, Poland. To the east, Belorussia. The high country around us was beautiful — it reminded me of the Kootenays, only with a Slav accent. As for the locals, they were like mountain folk everywhere — curious, generous, and hugely proud of their wild surroundings.
Somehow — I can't remember exactly how it happened — we ended up at a party halfway up the mountain one night. The homemade firewater (a Slovakian specialty!) was making the rounds and the local weed (a Slovakian transplant!) appeared as pungent and potent as the best stuff back home. But it was the talk that really blew me away. Squirt boat trips to Corsica, climbing expeditions to the Karakoram, spelunking jaunts in Namibia, kitesailing in Mauritius — seemed from their stories that this particular crew had hit every core-sport spot on the planet.
I must have dozed off for a few minutes. Maybe that's why I heard the voice before I could make out the figure in the room's smoky haze. "Hey you, Canata man," it called out in rough English. "You from Wheestler, right?" Being the only Canuck in the room, I figured it was safe to assume he was talking to me. So I nodded.
He just laughed. And then he explained. "I met very great Wheestler man last summer. We working on crazy bike park in Ukraine together. He very hard-working guy, you know. But fun. Very much fun. Maybe you know this man?"
Now it was my turn to laugh. For I knew exactly who he was talking about.
Whistler has countless celebrity ambassadors travelling the world on any given day. From Mike Douglas to Roger McCarthy, Julia Murray to Ali Milner and Maelle Ricker, our emissaries do a marvellous job of burnishing Whistler's already glowing reputation abroad. But even among this group, Tom Pro stands out.
Maybe it's his working-man aura. Maybe it's his perpetual smile. Maybe it's just that he really is what he appears to be. Whatever. Hang out with Tom for a while, and you'll soon discover just how popular this radically-understated guy really is.
Take the way he approached this story. "I don't want it to be all about me," he insisted at the start of our conversation. "There are so many people in my life who've made me who I am. People who opened doors for me, made impossible things happen." He stopped for a breath. Sighed. "My life is truly a reflection of all those people. I was just lucky enough to ride in their wake..."