Sun Peaks residents and Selkirk College alumni Doug and Stephanie Avery have both been inducted into the ski resort operations and management (SROAM) program’s Hall of Fame, recognized as “outstanding industry leaders.”
Doug and Stephanie, the only married couple in the Hall of Fame, were chosen based on years in the industry and career success.
“It was a very neat program. It’s served us really well, so it means a lot,” said Stephanie. “It’s definitely a lifestyle that we wanted, and Doug and I thought it was important.”
The Averys have lived in Sun Peaks with their two daughters since 2006. Doug worked as maintenance manager for the Grand Hotel & Conference Centre for 16 years, winning awards for his contribution in developing the sustainability program, before retiring last September. Stephanie has worked for Tourism Sun Peaks for 13 years, working her way up to her current position as director of finance and administration.
“In grade eight I remember joking with the guidance teacher, I want to be a ski bum,” said Doug. “They didn’t advise me that was a very successful career goal. So I ended up working in the Rockies for a bit, went to [British Columbia Institute of Technology] and took the hotel restaurant management program.”
Later, while working at Grouse Mountain, Doug spoke with a colleague who had taken the SROAM program at Selkirk College and did a practicum in Japan. Upon realizing this could be an opportunity to visit Japan, Doug applied for the program.
Stephanie also found out about the program through a friend who attended the school. Having grown up in Montreal, she wanted to travel. So when she heard about the program, she thought it was a great opportunity to get an education and also move out west.
“I didn’t know anything about the Japan thing until I actually got to Selkirk and they said that was an opportunity to do my practicum,” said Stephanie. “I remember just telling my parents ‘oh I don’t think BC is far enough, I’m going to Japan now.’ And that’s where Doug and I met.”
After completing the two years required to get their SROAM diploma, Doug and Stephanie began their search to find employment that could sustain them year-round. They soon found themselves with jobs at Blackcomb Mountain (before it merged with Whistler), due to a connection Doug had from working at Grouse Mountain.
Doug began his after-graduation career by being a janitor, and Stephanie a receptionist. But with time, Doug became the building services manager—the first person to hold this position at a ski resort in all of North America.
Stephanie quickly transferred to accounting for Blackcomb’s hotels, but soon after became pregnant with their first child and put her career on hold.
“We actually looked at coming to Sun Peaks back in 1995,” said Stephanie. “We just came to visit and we did the full tour, but we just didn’t feel there was enough yet to, you know, take that chance.”
A few years later, the Averys ended up moving all the way to St. Andrews, New Brunswick, when Doug accepted a new hotel maintenance manager position. They were there for six years, until they finally decided to move to Sun Peaks in 2006.
“We wanted to get back into a ski resort type setting,” said Stephanie. “Our kids, you know, we were driving almost three hours to a small little ski hill in New Brunswick just to get them the opportunity to ski.”
The Averys said their daughters ended up working for Sun Peaks Resort LLP, in the hotel in the summers and ski instructing in the winter. But eventually, they moved on to get their bachelors of science and are currently completing their masters degrees.
“Even though our girls are not going in that same path kind of thing, they ski a lot and they love the outdoors. That was important to us as a family,” said Stephanie.
Now having been settled in Sun Peaks for a long time, the Averys said they really appreciate the fundamentals they were taught during the SROAM program that helped get them to where they are.
“It’s neat to see the different paths all the other people have taken to have successful careers,” said Doug. “The one thing we’ve all done is we’ve all started at the bottom, right? Janitor, receptionist, you talk to any of the other SROAMies, same thing.”
“It’s kind of special,” added Stephanie. “It’s a neat group of people that we still don’t see very often, but when we do see it’s a really great time to catch up. And you may not have gone to school the same year as the people but it’s such a tight industry.”