Hall of Famer
Hugh Smythe played a pivotal and central role in the development of Whistler-Blackcomb, arguably the most successful mountain resort in North America.
Hugh began his lifelong career in the ski industry as a volunteer ski patroller on Whistler Mountain in January 1966. He advanced to professional ski patroller that fall, and then to director of patrol and various positions to hill manager.
Hugh’s roots in Whistler are deep. He was on the mountain on opening day (January 15, 1966) when he was an 18-year-old volunteer ski patroller, who drove up to Whistler on weekends from Vancouver. Ever since, Hugh was a central figure in nearly all key moments of stratospheric development in the Whistler valley over the next four decades.
He left Whistler in 1974 to resurrect Fortress Mountain, a defunct ski area outside Calgary. His success there as General Manager led him in 1977 to convince the Aspen Skiing Company and the Federal Business Development Bank to pursue proposal calls for the development of Blackcomb Mountain. Hugh returned to Whistler in 1978 and, as President of Blackcomb, directed the project through inception, planning and construction to its opening in December 1980, and its ongoing growth.
In 1986 Hugh attracted Intrawest’s attention to Blackcomb, resulting in their acquisition of the resort and, under his direction, the major expansion the following year that positioned Blackcomb as Canada’s premiere ski resort.
Hugh was instrumental in the growth of Intrawest from this single resort in 1986 to a diversified collection of award winning destination resorts in the mid 2000’s. Hugh held various senior executive roles with Intrawest, including 20 years as President of the Resort Operations Group with responsibility for 13 mountain resorts, which in Canada included Panorama, CMH Heliskiing, Blue Mountain, Mont Ste Marie, Tremblant, and its flagship Whistler Blackcomb, along with the US resorts Stratton, Snowshoe, Copper Mountain, Steamboat, Mammoth, Mountain Creek, as well as Sandestin Beach Resort, plus Courmayeur in Italy.
In the early 2000’s Intrawest was the largest ski company in the world. Hugh’s vision for the Peak 2 Peak Gondola which connected Whistler and Blackcomb via the longest unsupported span in the world, was completed just ahead of his retirement from Intrawest in 2009.
When Hugh retired in 2009, he again committed to skiing the mountain, making many stops along the way to say hello to the many people’s lives he positively affected during his influential time as a business leader. Hugh Smythe was a visionary, a leader, a collaborator, an innovator who best exemplifies the incredible path Whistler Blackcomb has taken since that opening day in 1966.
He is widely renowned as one of the most experienced and respected individuals in the ski industry, with his contributions having been recognized by numerous awards and accolades including:
- 1995 Jim Marshall Award
- 1995 Henry Singer Award for Retail Excellence
- 1999 SKI Magazine recognition as one of the 100 most influential people in the history of skiing
- 2000 Tourism BC’s Tourism Industry Leader of the Year
- 2009 Canadian Ski Council Judith Kilbourne Award
- 2009 Jimmie Spencer Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2010 inducted as a member of the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame
Hugh with his wife Shayne le Poer Trench by the “Hugh’s Heaven” plaque, at the top of 7th Heaven on Blackcomb, honouring his life-long career and his role in the development of Blackcomb and Whistler.
Whistler Blackcomb | 50 Years of Going Beyond
Snowsport legends recount Whistler Blackcomb’s greatest contributions to skiing and snowboarding in this 50th anniversary documentary.