82 ski areas in two seasons – Nicolson focuses on industry connections as CWSAA CEO

Christopher Nicolson visiting the Innisfail ski hill in Alberta.
| Photo Supplied

Heading into his second winter as CEO of the Canada West Ski Area Association (CWSAA), Christopher Nicolson has a lot on his mind.

Since taking up the position in April of 2016 Nicolson, a Sun Peaks resident, has had a packed schedule. So far he’s visited 82 out of the 92 ski area members in an effort to focus on advocacy and the industry community.

“There are some larger areas,” he said. “But a lot of them are only a rope tow or t-bar.”
He said the trips are important to gain a greater understanding of the industry as a whole and to see how many of the areas are winter service providers for their communities more than commercial entities.

“The commercial side is a massive benefit to the province,” he said. “But also it (the industry) is a service provider of winter recreation. It provides an opportunity for youth and families to be outdoors doing something healthy.”

Having grown up skiing smaller areas, he was familiar with them but returning as CEO has helped connect the industry and make smaller or more remote areas feel
less isolated.

“The majority of community areas are non-profit with volunteer boards and open weekends… We (CWSAA) serve them. We’re ensuring Canada West is industry led.”

Nicolson said working and travelling alongside industry legends like Jim Buckingham (who he described as an “encyclopedia of prairie ski areas”) has been one of the best parts of
the role.

“There are many people, predecessors, who have retired but have a tremendous amount of experience,” he said.

Nicolson has also been focusing on attracting new skiers and snowboarders to the community, especially children and young people by creating new educational tools and emboldening industry conversations.

“Looking at skiing and snowboarding, not just as a sport or activity, but looking at how helpful it is for youth development and confidence,” he said. “It’s the skills gained. Skiing and snowboarding has a higher calling that helps youth develop as humans.”

And his plans for the next year and a half? Other than visiting the remaining ski areas on his list, Nicholson said he wants introduce snow sports to new Canadians who may come from parts of the world without ski areas.

“Making winter snowsports a desired part of what Canadians want to do,” he said.

“Redefining its role, how skiing and snowboarding is good for youth development.”

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