President and CEO of the Canada West Ski Areas Association

Passing Date: 
Monday, July 16, 2018

James (Jimmie) Spencer, president and CEO of the Canada West Ski Areas Association for 32 years, died on July 16 in Vernon, British Columbia at the age of 92.

Born in 1926 in Scotland, Spencer lied about his age in 1943 to enlist in the British Army. He was thrown directly into the fray as part of the Allies’ Italian campaign. In May 1945, he was deployed to the Austrian Alps and trained in mountain warfare near the Grossglockner, the country’s highest peak. Spencer’s cross-country prowess landed him a spot on the British Olympic team, and he competed in the 1952 and 1956 Winter Olympics. He was active as a competitor and race organizer up to his retirement in 1974.  

Spencer came to Ontario in 1976 to investigate the viability of developing a ski manufacturing facility. But the ski-making business proved to be too risky, and he and his family moved to Calgary in the hope of finding a new opportunity. 

An invitation by Lake Louise Ski Area owner Rodney Touche to attend an industry barbecue at Touche’s vast ranch southwest of Calgary led to Spencer’s hiring as executive director for the Canada West Ski Areas Association, a moribund lobby group. From the beginning, Spencer and his wife Andy, who ran the office, held a vision for the ski industry. 

He pushed for adoption of Canada West Way, a policy of best practices that promoted a dignified, professional front when dealing with the public. He established a Ski Area Operations diploma program at Selkirk College and drafted plain language regulations for terrain parks. He retired in 2011 at age 85, dividing time between Vernon and his cabin at Silver Star Mountain. 

Spencer was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 2007. In 2011, he was inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame and received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Royal Roads University. He is survived by his wife Andy, sons Iain and David, and daughters Lyndy, Kimm

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