Tough year for ski industry conference 

Hugh Smythe to be honoured by Canadian Ski Council next week

The tough economic times and their impact on the ski industry will be a major theme in the annual Canadian Ski Council (CSC) conference in Whistler next week.

Just over 120 leaders in the ski industry from Canada and the U.S. will be part of the conference.

That relatively low attendance (some year's the conference has attracted more than 300 attendees) is proof enough of the tough times ski resorts are facing.

"It is a difficult thing this year compared to almost any other year mainly because the economy and the tough year that a lot of ski areas had, where travel is one of the first things to get cut back on," said Colin Chedore, president of the CSC.

"We thought everything would be in line for us to attract a lot of people but with the bad winter..."

The State of the Ski and Snowboard Industry Conference will bring together several featured speakers over the course of four days, from July 6 to 9.

Among the keynote speakers are:

Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), who will be speaking about the boomer bubble and why it's critical to identify some of the major threats to the future growth of the sport.

Bill Jensen, CEO of Intrawest, who will talk about his insights on the last volatile season and how the financial crisis will impact the ski industry.

Paul Darby, deputy chief economist for The Conference Board of Canada, who will speak about the economy and whether or not people both inside and outside Canada will have money to travel.

On another topic, Dr. Jasper Shealy, will shed more light on helmets.

Conference goers will also have the opportunity to tour Whistler's Olympic sites.

This year Whistler's Hugh Smythe, who began his ski career as a patroller on Whistler Mountain and retired as senior vice president of Intrawest Mountain Resorts, will be honoured as the recipient of the 2009 CSC Founders Award for his 43 years of leadership in the industry.

"It's what we consider Canada's top award," said Chedore.

"There's not many people in this country who have made a bigger contribution to the growth of our ski and snowboard industry through the development of the resorts. Hugh has been responsible for leading in the Intrawest domain. He's made an incredible contribution."

Chedore called Smythe the architect of so many ideas around customer service, safety and guest satisfaction.

Smythe will be presented with the award during a special ceremony and dinner on Tuesday, July 7 at the Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa. Tickets are available for purchase at the CSC by calling 705-445-9140.

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