February 19, 2010 Features & Images » Feature Story

Walking the talk 

Whistler athletes represent in Whistler style

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But it's not his prodigious physical talents that make him such a great Whistler story; it's his ability to connect with people. No matter where, no matter how, Jim McConkey has always managed to make his friends, clients and colleagues think that they are the most important people in his life.

Vancouver lawyer Tom Ladner was one such person. A tough judge of character, and a man who didn't suffer fools, the prominent city businessman had very little in common with the ski star. But he was an unabashed fan of McConkey's. "I don't know how Jim does it," he once told me, "but he can make the nastiest ski day feel like a walk in the park." And then he laughed. "I recall one heli-ski outing in particular. Our last run was from the peak of Whistler and down through the trees to the base of Creekside." Another chuckle. "Given the kind of gear we were using in the late '60s that was a tall order for me. And I was exhausted. I remember at one point just plopping down in the snow and thinking I couldn't possibly go any further..."

McConkey would have none of it, however.

"He came over," recounted Tom, "helped me to my feet and in that booming voice of his said, 'Isn't this a great day, Tom? We're so lucky to be here. Don't you think?' And suddenly I didn't feel so tired..."

Jim turned 82 last summer. Most of his contemporaries have either passed away or have radically slowed down their activities. But he wears his years lightly. A frequent Whistler visitor (mostly in the spring), McConkey can usually be found skiing with friends in the morning and golfing in Pemberton in the afternoon. Doesn't matter what the weather is like - sunny, stormy, soupy or even downright nasty - he doesn't alter his plans. "Everyday is a good day if you're on the mountain," he's often told me. And he means it.

"There's something very special about that man," says local photographer-to-the-stars Bonny Makarewicz. "He seems to have so much fun with life," she marvelled. "And it comes through so clearly in his photos. Even at his age today! The camera still loves this guy..."

Which pretty much says it all. Everybody loves Jim. Why? Because McConkey's way of doing things celebrates all that is exciting and inspiring and adventurous about this singular Coast Mountain community. Accessible, generous, self-deprecating and totally unpretentious - but with a damn-the-torpedoes, risk-taking element to his character that has led him into countless adventures and more than his share of mishaps - Jim is the living embodiment of Whistler Style.

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