Fueled by passion

TSP PRESIDENT MOVES ON TO NEW ROLE AFTER OVER A DECADE

Gettin' after it: Nicolson does some product testing during the 1994-95 winter season. - Photo submitted
Gettin’ after it: Nicolson does some product testing during the 1994-95 winter season. – Photo Submitted

The 12-year tenure of Christopher Nicolson as president of Tourism Sun Peaks (TSP) is coming to an end as he moves into a new role as president and CEO of Canada West Ski Areas Association, a position he began on April 4.

He has over 30 years of experience in the ski industry, mostly in Sun Peaks, and he assumed his role as TSP president in 2004 after working in media relations for Whistler Blackcomb.

A contingent that included Sun Peaks Resort LLP general manager Darcy Alexander, and TSP board of directors members Petr Duda and Al Raine drove to Nicolson’s home in Pemberton to interview him when the position became available.

“The three of us actually went and interviewed Christopher in his kitchen with the dogs on the floor and that’s how he got the job,” Duda said.

“When we went over we were pretty confident that, while Christopher did a great job in Whistler, his heart was still in the Interior. He really wanted to be in the Interior and (Whistler) was part of what he needed to do to get himself ready for a job of running the tourism association,” Raine said.

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Nicolson has been an instrumental figure in attracting visitors to Sun Peaks, and leaves on a high note as the resort set a new record high for occupancy during the 2015-16 ski season.

“Years ago when you mentioned Sun Peaks to anyone passionate about skiing or outdoor recreation, they asked ‘where?’ as if Sun Peaks was a far off land, and today the most common response is either ‘I love Sun Peaks’ or ‘all my friends rave about it, we’re going there next year,’ said founder of SPIN Adam Earle, adding that he feels Nicolson had a main part to play in this evolution.

“He’s worked darn hard, slugged away,” Raine said. “Working for a membership-driven organization can be frustrating at times. I really admire him for his tenacity and just sticking to it and staying calm and collected. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him angry or upset and there were many occasions where he could have easily been angry and upset.”

“It’s the passion and the commitment. He absolutely, totally believes that this is a premium product and we need to get people in here, and if you have that passion it’s easy to transmit that to other people,” Duda said.

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Through conversations, Nicolson’s passion and love for mountain life, specifically in Sun Peaks, was a constant topic.

“Passion, drive, commitment and focus are all words that come to mind when I recall my dealings with Christopher over the years. He juggled dealing with the input and expectations of so many entities, businesses, boards, committees and individuals in his time at TSP that it would make even the most organized business person’s head spin,” Earle said.

“Every season before the mountain opens to the general public, the moment there is enough snow to try it he’s up there for first tracks,” Duda said.

“I think one of the nicest things about Christopher is he loves to ski and he really knows that it matters. The quality of the skiing really matters,” said director of skiing Nancy Greene Raine. “Christopher is so much of an un-phony kind of guy. He wouldn’t sell something that wasn’t really, really good. That’s why he’s happy here.”

“His passion for Sun Peaks, the area and the community, was demonstrated when Canada West went after him to fill this position that he has now taken, and he only took it with the condition that he could stay where he lives now. He can still be a part of this community,” said councillor Ines Popig.

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As he moves on to his new role there is a big hole to fill, but community members are confident the new president will be up to the task.

“They are very big shoes to fill, but this is a very small industry and people know a lot of people in the industry. There are some very qualified people who are potential candidates,” Duda said.

“Several people said to me ‘wow, Christopher’s shoes are hard to fill, he’s been here so long and he knows everyone.’ I’m much more optimistic. I look and this has got to be, for people who are going to work at resort associations, it’s got to be at least the number two job, if not the number one job in the province,” Raine said.

“If you try and fill (a position) with a person who is exactly like the one who vacated, you’re going to only end up being disappointed because you can never get another person like that,” Popig said.

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