Peter Alder: a lifetime of achievement celebrated

Last week, Peter Alder was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Chamber of Commerce's Whistler Excellence Awards.

I've been lucky enough to get to know Peter through the museum, so I was really pleased and excited to hear that he was being recognized in this way. The Chamber of Commerce created this lifetime achievement award because it realized that there are a select few people in this town who have been working tirelessly for decades to build up Whistler, and that it was important for these people to be celebrated publicly. Peter Alder is the first person to receive this award and was top of many people's lists to be recognized in this capacity.

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Peter's contribution to Whistler goes back a long way. He first came to the valley working for BC Hydro in 1956, working on installing the power lines and bringing electricity to the valley. Everyone who knows Peter will know that he has a sense of humour and he loves to tell how he was responsible for the transmission lines "that grace this valley like a spider web."

After this first encounter, there was a long interval away from Whistler during which Peter became a very big deal in the ski industry. He managed Red Mountain in Rossland, Silver Star Resort in Vernon and worked for the Ministry of Transportation in the lift inspection department. He also was a key player in creating the B.C. Alpine Commercial Ski Area Policy. This policy governed the development of mountain resorts and had a huge impact on the success of the ski industry in B.C., including Whistler Mountain.

In 1978, he returned to Whistler to manage Whistler Mountain at a very interesting time in its history. Approval for the development of Blackcomb Mountain had been given and Whistler Mountain had some serious competition. In fact, according to Peter, in the first few years, Blackcomb "beat the pants off us". Peter pressed hard for the development of the north side of Whistler Mountain, often against significant resistance from board members, who didn't want anything to do with the new development on the other side of their mountain. Luckily, Peter's vision prevailed and the north side was developed.

Peter left Whistler Mountain in 1984 to head the Whistler Resort Association (now known as Tourism Whistler) through the turbulent time of the 1980s' recession. He then went on to join Paul Mathews - who he had employed to do the first master plan for Whistler Mountain - at Ecosign. He became a globetrotting ski resort consultant, helping resorts all over the world create master plans and fulfill their potential.

Peter's career has many facets - far more than I could hope to mention in this short column. But one thing that people mention again and again is his tendency to mentor and share his considerable wisdom. It is clear that Peter is much loved and respected in this community and his lifetime achievement award is very well deserved.

Sarah Drewery is the executive director of the Whistler Museum.

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