Tom Pro(chazka) – a profound love for the mountains 

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Hmm. That may be true. But listen to his stories for a while, and it quickly becomes evident that whatever gifts and/or opportunities he received from friends and colleagues along the way, Tom Pro has given back (or passed forward) easily as many... or even more!

But don't take my word for it. Here's how he tells his story:

"I was born and raised in the Czech Republic," he starts. "Skiing was a family thing for us — I think I started when I was two and a half. Or something like that." He laughs. "As for moving to Canada — that didn't happen until 1968."

Tom was only 13 when his family re-settled in North Vancouver. "My father had seen a documentary on the West Coast. And he was really taken with it. He was a lifelong skier, you know, a real outdoors guy. So the West Coast is where he decided we'd start our new life..."

Pro doesn't dwell on the hardships of his family's emigration. Of the 1968 uprising in Czechoslovakia that was brutally suppressed by the Soviets and forced so many (like the Prochazkas) to escape the country. Of the family's month-long stay in a German refugee camp... waiting for their oh-so-valuable Canadian immigration papers to come through. Or even of the difficulties that a young teenager would invariably face as a newcomer in a foreign country.

No, he doesn't dwell on any of that. Instead, he finds a way to inject a little humour into his first impression of Canadians. "We arrived here on Halloween night," he recounts. "And, you know, there was nothing remotely close to that back home. So our response was like 'Wow! These guys really know how to get dressed up...'"

Living on Vancouver's north shore, says Pro, was a dream-come-true for a kid like him. "My dad got a job as a liftee at Grouse... actually worked for Rick Temple there." He pauses for a beat. Smiles. "So I got to join the Grouse Mountain Tyees. And that was huge — it was a pretty significant club in those days and there were a lot of good skiers around. There was Bruce Goldsmid and Doug Temple, and the Vajdas (Andrée Janyk's family) and the Lamberts and the Ramseys..." More laughter. "Skiing and racing with the Tyees — that was my education!"

Indeed. And it didn't take him long to learn how to ski home after practice. "We lived at the top of Lonsdale Avenue in those days," he explains. "So all I had to do was ski down the old Cut Chairlift line, cross Mosquito Creek, grovel in the underbrush a bit... and that was that. I was home."

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