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Dunnigan, Smart and Dobbin got busy. As a junior racer who made it to FIS competition before having to face the fact he didn't have the funds to continue, Smart had all but burnt himself out after working his formative years in the ski industry, moving from his hometown in Montréal's Eastern Townships to Banff. At age 24, he had arrived in Whistler to flee the ski industry's rat race. After his second year in town, Smart was working for Dave Wilson, who was heading up Blackcomb Ski School. As we say in the ski world, Smart sacked it up and pitched the idea on a one-page piece of paper. It all came down to a handshake deal at a construction site Wilson was working on. "We had a program," says Smart, just like that." Game on.
Extremely Canadian launched the winter of 1994/1995 with two clinics on Blackcomb and five in Banff, during an era when close to a dozen independent ski camps peppered both mountains with a variety of skier-branded products. The early days were thin, as Extremely Canadian paid a cut to both mountains. Dunnigan remembers splitting a grand total of three thousand bucks between the three of them, with most of it going down the gullet during an epic dinner at Sushi Village. They were about ready to call it quits, but then the unthinkable happened: Whistler and Blackcomb became one big mountain. Whistler would never be the same.
With the Intrawest merger of Whistler and Blackcomb in 1996, over a dozen independent operators were cut during an era of corporate consolidation. Various programs operating across both mountains, however, were kept on. It was in part thanks to Rob McSkimming, who at the time was General Manager of Dual Mountain Programs (and a jackknife of job titles), that Extremely Canadian soldiered on, along with the Dave Murray Ski Camps and Ski Esprit. It was also 1997 when Smart and Dunnigan put forth their first proposal for backcountry guiding based upon the steeps camp model they had established. Such a proposal was no small feat, encompassing a full business outline, detailed marketing, tenure permissions, insurance and safety considerations, technical details and maps; however, as Dunnigan says upon retrospection, the idea was "ahead of the time for the market," and the proposal was respectfully shelved. It would take another 15 or so years to see the light.
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