Alta States 

A global perspective on Whistler

He was one of the starring characters in what is arguably Whistler’s most iconic photograph. No joke – there he is, standing in front of the old Soo Valley cabin in all his glory; that’s him second from the left, holding up a pair of what look like Dynamic VR17 skis. And he looks like he fits in perfectly. Ah, the 1970s – when time was elastic and money was just a detail….

Think again. While most of the other Toad Hall alumni were busy racing for the UIC ski team, Paul Mathews was hard at work earning a science degree in forest ecology from the University of Washington. "My Whistler friends were having a great time of it," he says, "but I was too busy studying and commuting back and forth from Seattle to really get into it properly. I was just a fringe player. I had to live that lifestyle vicariously."

His commitment to learning seems to have paid off however. Today, Mathews runs one of the most respected mountain resort design firms in the world. And though he admits he spends far too much time in international airports and hotels, his firm – Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners Ltd. – is still based out of the same timeworn condominium in Alpine Meadows that first housed his company back in 1975. "I think we’re up to around 250 resorts that we’ve planned and designed," he says, obviously very proud of the work he’s done over the last 30 years. "We actually just made the short list for the 2014 Winter Games with a resort we’re designing in the Caucasus Mountains. And that’s very exciting!"

From Zermatt to Sun Peaks, from Mount Washington to Verbier – by way of Korea, Japan, Austria and Russia (to name only a few countries in which he’s worked) – Paul Mathews and his Ecosign cohorts have played an inordinately big role in articulating a successful vision for the development of mountain resorts in the 21 st century. Still – the one job he’s most proud of is his participation in the development of Whistler-Blackcomb. "I was involved at all levels of development," he says, "and I can say I have few regrets. Our ski-in ski-out facilities, for example, work better than anywhere else in the world."

He smiles. "Look – for most of us old farts, it wasn’t that long ago that this place was considered on the far edge of the world. Because of Whistler’s success, B.C. has really stepped up its presence on the global stage. That was always the vision for Whistler: by creating a buzz about B.C., it opened the door for a lot of other mountain resort players in this province."

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