Mountain madness; Perry Schmunk and the WB merger 

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"Love is whatever you can still betray. Betrayal can only happen if you love."

– John Le Carré

They came for the mountains. The snow. The crazy, wild people who called this place home. Whatever. Suddenly everyone wanted to be a part of Whistler. It was like being a member of some exotic tribe lost in the coastal bush — apparently the civilized world had just discovered our twin-mountain magic. And anyone who spent time here in the early 1990s knows exactly what I mean.

Imagine. Rob Boyd had just won a World Cup downhill in his back yard. Trevor Peterson and Eric Pehota were laying ski tracks in the most outlandish of mountain places. Paul Morrison and Greg Griffith were shooting photos like there was no tomorrow. And Greg Stump, well, he was filming it all for posterity.

Whistler was thriving. Whistler was humming. Whistler was finally living up to all the dreams and promises and hopes that its people had entertained for nearly 30 years. The infrastructure was in place. The recent recession was now a bad memory. And the snow just kept falling and falling. It was the best of all worlds.

Picture it. Two different mountain operations — two complementary cultures — it was everything a ski bum could want. Family-owned Whistler Mountain on the right — with its meandering trails and laissez-faire management; while on the left, hard-charging Blackcomb, with its falline runs and a toilet stall for every derrière. So much competition. Such finely-tuned rivalry. And the winner? Every rider who ever set foot in this valley.

But it was the inspired silliness of its inhabitants that really set this place apart. I remember watching Arthur DeJong after a monster storm, binoculars around his neck, exhorting his charges to open the upper Blackcomb lifts before the neighbours could open theirs on Whistler. Or what about the stunts the two patrol teams pulled on each other? Mad. Mad. Mad...

No wonder Perry Schmunk was excited when he first arrived here in 1991. "I thought I'd died and gone to mountain heaven," exclaims the recently elected mayor of Tofino.

For those who missed last week's missive, hizzoner is the rarest of snow-sliding creatures. A non-skiing flatlander at 18, he raised himself up to the highest certification level in Canadian ski teaching in less than four years. By the time he hit 26, he was the new training coordinator for the Blackcomb Ski School. And that was just for starters.

The guy was full of ideas. Never stopped thinking. Never stopped doing. He also delivered results. The school was a cash cow, and Perry knew exactly how to milk her. But the mountain always came first. I mean, this guy ate, drank and breathed skiing. Passionate doesn't even come close. No surprise then, that by 1993-94, Schmunk was running the whole darn shebang.


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