Ski industry recognizes CWSAA president

Christopher Nicolson ‘surprised and encouraged’ by SAMMY leadership award

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Nicolson pauses for a photo during a mountain tour as the CEO of Canada West Ski Area Association.

Christopher Nicolson, Sun Peaks area resident and CEO of Canada West Ski Area Association (CWSAA), has been awarded a SAMMY leadership award by SAM (Ski Area Management) Magazine. The publication is recognized as “the voice of the mountain resort industry” and is based in Colorado.

The annual awards honour “individuals in the mountain resort industry who, at mid-career, demonstrate enthusiasm, passion and creativity that will shape our future,” said SAM’s website. The awards are peer-nominated.

Nicolson said the validation provided to his life’s work, including at his current employer, and as 12 years as president of Tourism Sun Peaks (TSP), is the best part.

“Skiing is more than just a sport. Skiing is a part of our social fabric, and skiing is an opportunity for families to recreate together,” said Nicolson. He added that skiing and snowboarding provide fundamental growth and development for youth and children they can’t get with other activities.

Nicolson said he sees skiing and snowboarding as a very special sport and receiving the SAMMY award is encouragement that he’s conveying this message.

With over 30 years of experience working in the ski industry, much of which took place at Sun Peaks, Nicolson has a lot to reflect on. Before working at TSP from 2004 to 2016, Nicolson worked in media relations at Whistler Blackcomb. In April of 2016, he took on his current role at CWSAA.

Nicolson said he believes the skills he developed while working at Sun Peaks through the mentorship of people like Darcy Alexander, Al Raine and Nancy Greene Raine contributed to receiving the award.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony at the National Ski Area Association (the US equivalent to the CWSAA) National Convention in early May. Nicolson will be present to accept the award, as he was already scheduled to attend the convention.

Nicolson was the only Canadian to receive the award in 2017, and one of very few Canadians to ever receive a SAMMY award.

The two other recipients this year were Amy Ohran and Ethan Mueller.

Ohran has worked in the industry for 27 years, and has worked for Mt. Bachelor, Boreal Mountain Resort, Woodward Tahoe and Soda Springs Resort. She created the Recycled Water Initiative at Soda Springs Resort, which was granted a NSAA Golden Eagle Award for environment excellence in 2016.

Ethan Mueller’s parents Tim and Diane Mueller built Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont and later Triple Peaks LLC, of which he is now the vice president of operations. According to the SAM website, he was nominated by employees, local town officials, and industry colleagues, all of which talked about his “perseverance, collaborative style, and thoughtful vision for connecting the resort and community.”  

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