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Dufour surprised, honoured with award

Jimmie Spencer honour a 'lifetime achievement' for WB vice-president mountain operations
Prime time Bob Dufour skiing just off Whistler Bowl in 1981: "We spent a lot of time up on those ridges. We just loved skiing.". Photo courtesy of Bob Dufour

Bob Dufour, Whistler Blackcomb's Vice-president of Mountain Operations and Maintenance, was awarded the Canadian Ski Council's Jimmie Spencer Lifetime Achievement Award last month. Pique reporter Lynn Mitges caught up with him a day after Blackcomb Mountain public skiing closed for the season.

Pique: Were you surprised when you were nominated for this award?

Bob Dufour: I was actually taken by surprise, I'm in my 44th year here and I've always loved what I do. It doesn't seem like a job. I never really thought anything of it, I just do it. To get that recognition, I feel very, very privileged and honoured.

Pique: This award is for lifetime achievement, but there must be things you'd still like to accomplish. Can you name a few?BD: It's very important to me to spend time on the hill and from that you learn so much. I was talking to some couple from England, and they ski in France and they said they just love it here because our signage is so good. Well, our research shows our signage isn't very good on the mountain, and we as operators aren't very good judges of signs because we know exactly where we're going. We think the signage is great. When I go to other areas and look at signs, I think we have a lot of room to improve, which we're doing.Pique: What are you most proud of in your career at WB?

BD: Being part of the resort development since '72, seeing the effort made by so many people on the mountain, in the valley, to make this one of the top resorts in the world. I think everyone is pretty proud of that. It's a lot of work by a lot of people. It's faster to lose than to gain. You can't sit on your laurels.

Pique: You've been in Whistler for decades. What still takes your breath away?

BD: I'm still blown away by the beauty of the mountains. I was just driving in this morning, looking at the valley and how the village is set up, the landscaping — the whole presentation, that to me is so impressive. When I ride the chairs I look around — you never take it for granted. It's what sets us apart. It is spectacular. We've got that and I wonder if everybody sees that.

Pique: Do you remember your first day of skiing Whistler?

BD: I was with Jim McConkey. It was the beginning of October and we hiked up to Little Whistler, went up the old gondola, the Red Chair then hiked up and skied, and went back up. And we did that three or four times. Back then we had the early-bird ski camps, we'd meet on Saturday mornings. I still see some of those people today who came to those early-bird camps. Hardcore.

Pique: You arrived here as a young man and built a long, successful career with WB. What advice would you give to those who want to follow a similar trajectory?

BD: I think the first thing is you have to have a passion for it. You have to enjoy the product and take some pride in what you're offering and find out how you're doing. Ask questions. You have to surround yourself with really good people. It's all about the guests and the product and the staff who make it happen. If you're not enjoying it, you're going to have a hard time.

Pique: What is something most people would be surprised to know about you?

BD: I'm a very outgoing person when I'm on the hill, I talk to guests, ask them where they're from, what they think of the product, where they've skied before, and say let's go for a run. By nature, I'm very private and very introverted. But when I'm on with the guests, I'm very outgoing. I feel natural doing it.