Head of CWSAA receives Order of B.C. 

Award marked Jimmie Spencer as leader in ski industry field

By Clare Ogilvie

Jimmie Spencer, the president and CEO, of the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA), has been awarded the Order of B.C. for 2007.

“I am very honoured and very proud to receive it,” said Spencer from his base in Vernon.

He will receive the award in Victoria June 14.

This year 14 British Columbians were chosen to receive the award. Recipients are carefully selected from public nominations by an independent advisory committee.

Spencer has been a groundbreaker in getting Western Canada’s ski areas to work together for the improvement of the sport and the industry. This has helped them develop in a sustainable manner. He has also developed leadership and management programs and national safety and operational standards.

Spencer introduced economic surveys, the Alpine Responsibility Code and the standardization of signage in ski areas for safety purposes.

“The idea (was) to try and make it easy for everybody so that no matter where you were in Canada you were not wondering what (the signs meant) and everyone was speaking with the same language and using the same signage,” said Spencer, who has led the CWSAA for 27 years.

“That was the concept and it worked.”

He has also worked closely with government as the industry’s spokesman in negotiations for Crown lands acquired under B.C.’s Commercial Alpine Ski Policy.

He played a critical role in the support of the Selkirk College’s Ski Resort Operations and Management programs, and was involved with the development of the HeliCat Canada group of heli-skiing and cat-skiing operators.

Spencer admits to always having a long love affair with winter sport.

He was captain of the United Kingdom Olympic team at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics where he competed in cross-country skiing and biathlon.

And as a career military officer he also competed internationally in alpine ski races.

“So a little bit of an all rounder,” he said.

Spencer rose to the rank of full colonel before retiring after 30 years in the military. He started out as a paratrooper, completing 200 jumps, and went on to command an armoured regiment in Germany.

He also spent six years in Austria at an army facility instructing in high mountaineering.

“So I have always been very close to skiing,” said Spencer, who was born in Scotland.

He was also Chairman of the Canadian Ski Council for nearly three years.

“That brought me in contact with all the skiing groups right across Canada and we have managed to work in very careful co-operation with each other, which I think is most important,” said Spencer.

“I love the people you meet who are involved in skiing. They are all great guys, particularly all the area operators and the staff. They are the greatest people you can meet, so for me it’s been and ideal choice.

“In accepting this award I really do accept it on behalf of all the people in the industry. Those are the guys I assume put me forward for this and without their support I assume this wouldn’t have happened, and so for them I am indeed most grateful and proud.”

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