Whether it's our world-class athletes, our stunning natural surroundings or our revered local culture, Whistler is a community that prides itself on being the best. While this is undoubtedly an attractive trait of our resort town, it made the judges' task of selecting the winners at Friday's (June 21) Whistler Excellence Awards that much more difficult.
Now in its second year, the ceremony saw eight different awards handed out to some of the community's most prominent businesses and residents, including the Citizen of the Year Award, given to philanthropist Patrick McCurdy.
"I don't know what to say, I wasn't expecting this to happen," said McCurdy after accepting the award in a gala at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. "I love living here. Everybody that lives in Whistler seems to love the place. It doesn't matter where you go, it's exciting to tell people how much you love to live here and then you start to tell them about all the things you're involved in and they can't believe there are so many things to get involved with here."
McCurdy currently serves as the president of the Rotary Club of Whistler Millennium, an organization that is dedicated to supporting local youngsters through a variety of initiatives. He's also been involved with the Big Brother program for five years, serves as president of the Whistler Sailing Association and coordinates a volunteer reading program at Myrtle Philip Community School.
After flying in from France to attend the awards ceremony at the Fairmont, McCurdy complimented his fellow nominees: Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment president Claire Ruddy, and local teacher and Alpine Club of Canada Whistler chair Mitch Sulkers.
"I had the privilege of sitting together with all three nominees tonight," McCurdy said. "We had a chance to talk and get to know each other a little bit better, and I don't know how you guys made a choice, they're wonderful people."
Following McCurdy's award, founder of local marketing and communications company Origin Design Danielle Kristmanson was named the Business Person of the Year. The North Face, Whistler Blackcomb and Salomon Sports are just a handful of the more than 25 clients Origin serves.
"For most people, the opportunity for your peers to get a look at the great work that you're doing is relatively rare, so I think I'm just lucky," she said. "There could have been any number people that were honoured."
Origin has enjoyed consistent growth since it was founded as "a one-woman show" in 1995, said Kristmanson, adding a second office in Montreal in 2005. She also credited local small businesses for creating "a highly-evolved and dynamic business environment" for companies like Origin to flourish in.
"In many instances, I think we take for granted the expertise that many of our small businesses tend to carry around because we operate in a setting that requires best-in-class," she said.
Closing the evening was the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, given to the 53-year ski industry veteran Peter Alder, who first arrived in Whistler in 1956 from his native Switzerland to install power lines and was instrumental in the development of the resort through the years.
"I'd like to thank the Whistler community for this award," Alder said. "I asked one of my friends why I would deserve such an award, his answer was: "Bullshit baffles brains all the time.'"
Alder made a name for himself in the ski industry managing B.C. resorts and serving as a lift inspector for the province. He returned to the Sea to Sky in 1978 to manage Whistler Mountain and helped compile its first master plan. He also withstood stiff competition from rival Blackcomb Mountain, managed by Hugh Smythe at the time, which opened for business in 1980.
"Hugh (Smythe) was a good competitor with his team," said Alder. "He outsmarted me all the time when he had the mountain on the left-hand side."
Among his many other accomplishments, Alder also played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, and served as head of Whistler Resort Association, the predecessor to Tourism Whistler.
"I'm looking forward to what our future is. Thank you all to my friends young and old for the support and friendship. It's such a beautiful place to live here," said Alder.
Several other awards rounded out Friday's ceremony, including the Service Excellence Award for Small Business, given to Mountain Galleries at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, and the Service Excellence Award for Large Business given to Whistler Blackcomb Guest Services.
North Shore Credit Union was also honoured with the Business and the Arts Award for its support of the local arts community. Nonna Pia's Gourmet Sauces received the Innovative Business of the Year Award for its homemade sauces and balsamic reductions, which age for six years and are produced, bottled and packaged in Whistler.
Ziptrek Ecotours received the Sustainability in Action Business Award for its commitment to sustainable operations and promoting nature-based learning to customers. North America's first zipline tour company, Ziptrek follows the United Nations principals of ecotourism and supports domestic and international organizations committed to environmental education.
The Whistler Excellence Awards are hosted by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Whistler Arts Council, the Community Foundation of Whistler and the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.