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Alder honoured by CWSAA

One of skiing's 'founding fathers' receives Jimmie Spencer Lifetime Achievement Award
Peter Alder accepts the Canada West Ski Areas Association's Jimmie Spencer Lifetime Achievement Award at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on April 25. FOUNDING FATHER

According to Hugh Smythe, there are a number of different criteria that can be met when the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) determines its Jimmie Spencer Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

And Peter Alder might just qualify for all of them.

The award is given to those who have shown exceptional leadership and lengthy service to the ski industry in the areas of senior management, ownership or consulting.

"If that's the criteria, he's done it multiple times," Smythe said of his longtime friend Alder, to whom he presented the award at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Thursday, April 25.

"There would be nobody else in the province today that has been involved in the industry as long as Peter has."

Considered one of the "founding fathers" of the B.C. ski industry, Alder came to B.C. from Switzerland in 1951 to work as a mechanical engineer. His first contribution to Whistler (what would be the first of many) was overseeing the stringing of power lines through the valley in the '50s.

After management roles with Red Mountain, Silver Star and Big White, Alder would return to Whistler in 1978 to take on the general manager role at Whistler Mountain.

Smythe was working on the design of Blackcomb Mountain at the time, which was set to open in 1980.

"Peter and I became major competitors, so it's a good thing that we were great friends," Smythe said with a laugh.

Indeed, the pair had a relationship going back to the summer of '75, when they both took a ski area management course at Selkirk College.

Smythe described his longtime friend as "a real character" with a penchant for giving back.

"As a person, he's been really involved, I mean not only all over the province and all over the world consulting ... but one thing that Peter's really known for is mentoring and helping people along," Smythe said.

During his time at Whistler Mountain, Alder initiated the first ski area master plan for the mountain, which included the north-side lifts out of Whistler Village.

He also served as chair of the Whistler Advisory Planning Commission, president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, and made big contributions to the formation and operation of the Whistler Resort Association, which guided the resort through the turbulent recession of the early '80s, Smythe said.

"Peter used to say, 'the last person out, please turn off the lights,' because that's when interest rates went to 22 per cent, and it was difficult," he said.

"But Peter was very good at bringing people together, and developing relationships with the province, with the municipality, with the different associations, and with the new player, I call it the new kid on the block, Blackcomb, and myself."

Alder is just the sixth person to be awarded the Jimmie Spencer since it was introduced in 2006 (Smythe himself was given the award in 2009).

The honour came as a surprise to the 88-year-old Alder, surrounded by nearly 600 of his ski-industry peers.

"I lost my pants," Alder joked. "An old man, I'm not supposed to cry. It was quite an event. I was really surprised."

With his 89th birthday just around the corner (or "the upper end of middle age," as he slyly describes it), Alder is still going strong, recently getting involved with the effort to build a community church in Whistler.

"It's an interesting community. It has some growing pains right now. I think there's a little bit of an imbalance between rich and poor around here," Alder said of his longtime home.

"But I'm not too worried about it, because every once in awhile we have a downturn and things get back to normal, and there's still lots of opportunities around here."

As for that long and storied career?

"I enjoyed every minute of it," Alder said.

Meanwhile, Danny Cox, also of Whistler, was awarded the 2019 Jim Marshall Leadership Award at the event.

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