Luke Dillon 'gobsmacked' winning Whistler Sabbatical 

Eight other finalists eligible for fan choice award, plus award for fan choice voter

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Lucky" Luke Dillon likely won't make an appearance in Whistler until mid-March, but he's already everyone's favourite local. The 23-year-old Londoner was selected at random from over 19,000 entries to the Whistler Sabbatical Project, then made it through the final selection process on Monday to win a month of skiing and adventures in the resort.

"I was blown away," said Dillon after getting the call. "It was really funny, they called and it was really late and I felt like they were winding it up and going to say 'sorry, you haven't won,' and then they told me."

The grand prize is a trip for two to Whistler, and he's already picked a friend from grade school to come along as his guest. The two will receive round-trip tickets to Vancouver, a limousine ride to and from the airport to Whistler, a month's accommodation at a private residence, bus passes, ski passes for the month, free ski gear courtesy of K2, and up to $4,200 in cash to off-set lost wages for the month. They will also have their pick of 15 free "Would You Do It?" activities that were used to promote the Whistler Sabbatical Project, ranging from heli-skiing, to adventure tours, to clubbing, to dining at top restaurants.

Dillon is already an avid skier who has been to Whistler before for a weekend, and frequents the slopes in Europe. That's the part he's most looking forward to.

"I'm coming to the land of skiing so I'm probably not good enough, but I'm lucky that my parents have taken me skiing since I was young so hopefully I can handle what everybody throws at me."

After being selected as one of 10 randomly selected finalists, Dillon had to submit a 250-word essay on why he should be considered for the top prize.

"When I was 17 I was lucky enough to be taken to Whistler by my uncle," wrote Dillon. "It was the weekend of a lifetime. Only the briefest of visits, but the friendliness of the people, the variety of the skiing, and the stunning surroundings made me long for more. Whistler stands head and shoulders above anything in Europe."

Dillon works in the events industry and volunteers for Search and Rescue Lifeboats on the Thames. As London prepares to host the 2012 Summer Games, he said he's keen to visit Whistler and soak in some of the spirit from the 2010 Games.

The Whistler Sabbatical Project was created to drum up some excitement for Whistler heading into the season, while connecting with key markets. Since October the website has seen over 160,00 unique visits.

Breton Murphy, senior communications manager at Tourism Whistler, said Dillon is continuing to draw attention to the resort.

"He's really interested in participating in this and he's already very engaged in social media, which is great for us," said Murphy. "He's great for us as an ambassador, and we know he's gong to continue to be engaged while he's up here."

A newly added dimension to the contest is the Fan Choice Award, with open voting from Feb. 20 to Mar. 12 for the eight remaining finalists in the running. The winner of this award, picked by readers, will receive a round-trip ticket to Vancouver International Airport, ground transfer to Whistler and five nights accommodation courtesy of Aloha Whistler, two three-day lift passes, one three-hour snowmobile tour for two from The Adventure Group, one "Earn Your Turns" tour with Whistler Alpine guides and a $200 gift certificate for gear from Escape Route.

To encourage people to vote, there is an identical prize that will go to a randomly selected voter. For more, visit wouldyoudoit.whistler.com.

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