Blackcomb President Hugh Smythe added to his long list of achievements when he was presented with the Henry Singer Award by the Canadian Institute for Retailing and Services Studies last week in Edmonton.
The award recognizes exceptional leadership in retailing and services. CIRASS cited Smythe’s current position as president of the Resort Operations Group within Intrawest as the culmination of a lifetime of experience and expertise in the ski industry. Intrawest is majority owner of Blackcomb, Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Panorama, B.C., Stratton, Vermont and Snowshoe, West Virginia.
Smythe’s career in the ski industry began as a 17-year-old member of Whistler Mountain’s ski patrol in 1966. He became hill manager and later area manager before moving to Fortress Mountain in Alberta. He returned to Whistler in 1978 to oversee the development of Blackcomb. He is the only president the lift company has ever had.
CIRASS, which works in conjunction with the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Business, noted that at Blackcomb Smythe "established a reputation for dedication to customer service, providing tissues on the ski lifts and serving hot chocolate to waiting skiers on cold mornings."
"Today, Hugh Smythe is considered by many to be the number one ski operator in North America. His vision, and dedication, together with an instinctive understanding and love of the sport, is credited with redesigning the very face of the North American ski industry."
Smythe’s address to CIRASS was on sensory engineering, "how we orchestrate the impact that the design and operation of our resorts has on each of the five senses."
The Henry Singer Award recognizes a unique individual whose contributions to society go hand in hand with business. The recipient is one whose vision encompasses a blend of community service with business. Previous recipients include Bill Comrie, chairman of the board of The Brick and owner of the B.C. Lions, Margot Franssen, president of the Body Shop Canada, and Jefferson Mooney, CEO of A&W Food Services.