Hall of Famer
Peter Alder’s interest and passion for the ski industry started early and extended to far reaching areas while he helped modernize and increase the professionalism of ski areas and ski area management across British Columbia.
When Peter came to Canada from Switzerland in the early-1950s, one of his first jobs was to work on power lines for the aluminum project at Kemano, near Kitimat. This led to settling in Squamish, working with engineering crews stringing power lines for BC Electric (now BC Hydro). It was to be nearly 10 years before he entered the ski industry in a professional capacity, though he was involved with the founding of a ski club in Squamish in 1955 and as well by assisting in the construction of a ski lift up to St. Paul’s Ridge in Garibaldi Park.
In 1962, he became the first professional ski area manager of Red Mountain, near Rossland, B.C., where over the next six years he cut his teeth into the ski industry. “I believe the factors that got him the job were his knowledge of skiing and ski resorts from his youth in Switzerland, the ability to build towers, his charisma and charm and finally, his great Swiss accent,” said Doug Alder, of his father. “It was a small hill, far from the big markets, so he and my mother Gloria had to hustle for the local crowds,” Doug explained. “My dad said they learned about ticket sales and flipping hamburgers and cleaning toilets at Red Mountain and that this hands-on approach gave him a connection with the people he would employ as his staff got larger.”
Peter was next recruited to Silver Star, near Vernon, B.C., where he was the GM from 1968 to 1974 and also one season at Big White, also as the ski resort’s GM, in 1974-75.
But it was during Red Mountain job where he flourished. The Alder family lived for the first three years in the top floor of the Red Mountain lodge (now occupied by Rafters, a popular après ski pub). It was also a time when a young upstart skier by the name of Nancy Greene was becoming a ski racing power. Peter jumped at the chance to invite the International Ski Federation to host a World Cup race at Red Mountain; shortly after that dream became a reality with the 1967 du Maurier World Cup. During his time at Red Mountain, Peter was also instrumental in setting up the Ski Area Management course at Selkirk College, in Castlegar. It started out small, just an end-of-the-season gathering with other ski area managers to exchange ideas and quickly grew into a diploma-granting institution which continues today to provide important training for the ski industry in Western Canada.
Starting in 1968 at Silver Star, Peter built on his successes at Red Mountain with a bigger budget and more staff. In addition to introducing more on hill accommodation and adding two ski lifts, Peter started joint marketing with neighbouring mountains Big White and Apex, with the slogan “Up to your Apple in Okanagan Powder”. He was also a founding member of the Canada West Ski Areas Association and served as five time chairman of that organization.
Peter returned to the Coast, taking a job with the BC Department of Transportation, as the Chief Inspector of Aerial Tramways between 1975–78. Soon after Franz Wilhelmsen, the President of Garibaldi Lifts, offered Peter a job as the Whistler ski area manager in 1978, where he also served on the board of directors of Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation. While he was there, he was instrumental in building the north side lifts on Whistler Mountain and was involved in creating the first Whistler “Master Plan” in coordination with the new Whistler Village.
Whistler was home for Peter. He met and married Trudy, a popular ski instructor and home builder, where they lived for over 40 years. After retirement, Peter did consulting work with Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners, the Whistler-based company which is a world leader in ski resort design. During this time he was involved in the development at Sun Peaks, working again with Al and Nancy Greene Raine, this time on the Cahilty Lodge at Sun Peaks.
As an entrepreneur, manager, and consultant, Peter shaped the ski industry both in B.C., and elsewhere. Few people have touched so many corners of British Columbia’s ski industry the way that Peter Alder did.
“There is no monument to my father in Whistler … no one thing that I can point to and say ‘he did that’, but there are a thousand little things he did and people that he helped over the years. I think building a community was his strength and his ultimate goal. It wasn’t so much about monuments or great achievements, it was about caring for people, helping them get started, or get a leg up, that he excelled at.”
– Douglas Alder, son of Peter
- 1986: The Jim Marshall Award from CWSAA
- 2013: The first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the community of Whistler as a whole and its many associations and organizations.
- 2019: he Jimmie Spencer Lifetime Achievement Award by the Canada West Ski Areas Association, in honour of Peter’s exceptional leadership and lengthy service to the ski industry.
- Canada West Ski Areas Association – President 1968-71, and 1981-83
- Whistler Advisory Planning Commission – Chairman
- Whistler Chamber of Commerce – President
- Whistler Resort Association – Director
- Rotary Club of Whistler – Founding Member
- Sun Peaks Resort Association – Director
- Sun Peaks Improvement District – Director
Peter Alder: A Whistler life (Pique Newsmagazine, July 24, 2021)
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