Stoking the Dragon's fire in Whistler 

Bruce Croxon, of Dragon's Den, takes his hat off to local entrepreneurs

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Thousands of miles away on a cell phone just outside of Toronto, you can hear the hankering in Bruce Croxon's voice when he talks about Whistler.

"I love the place," he says, his voice laced with a genuine longing for the town he called home for two years.

It's 3 p.m. on the Friday before the May 24 long weekend. The highways heading out of the steamy city are starting to back up as the mass exodus to cottage country begins — a Toronto rite of passage at the start of every summer.

But Croxon is heading back into the city. Though he has a place up north in Georgian Bay, he's just not up for it this weekend. Filming on the next season of Dragon's Den has just wrapped and he's tired.

"The town's empty and we've got it to ourselves," he says, as he makes his way home to his wife and two kids.

This is a familiar path — going against the grain.

And it's landed him where he is today: a multi-millionaire Dragon on the hit CBC television series, poised to help change the lives of wannabe entrepreneurs.

Almost 15 years ago, Croxon was hanging out in Whistler. It was 1998. The snow was "incredible."

Not quite your typical ski bum, Croxon was 40-ish, single, no kids and co-owner of the widely successful online dating site Lavalife. He could work from Whistler and fly back to Toronto for board meetings.

It's a time he remembers fondly, eking the most of the mountain, forming fast friends he still has to this day.

"I was doing a lot of skiing and my body was breaking down and I got sold on the benefits of massage, for what it could do some my skiing, allow you to ski 65 days a season," he said.

He bought into Vida Spas and together the new owners rebranded the existing spa at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. They built two more in Vancouver, one in Seattle and then back to Vancouver for the fifth spa.

So the connection to Whistler is still strong, and the pull to come back for holidays even stronger.

It's harder now that he's a dad of a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old and at the helm of Round13, a company dedicated to investing in next generation information, communication and entertainment opportunities. And now a TV personality.

But he still comes back at least twice a year. And has a keen interest in Whistler success, both personally and financially.

Croxon talks to the Pique this week about the challenges of being an entrepreneur, particularly in a small resort town, and about the road ahead for Whistler.

Pique: You say you "took the road less travelled." How did that make a difference for you?

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