Blue Mountain Resort and the End of An Era
Isn’t it somewhat unimaginable to believe that a 220 meter high hill on the escarpment could change the entire economy and face of a town for over 7 decades? Unimaginable indeed yet it happened.
The buzz all around town on Friday was the announcement that Intrawest bought all of the remaining shares held by Blue Mountain and by the end of the month, the founders will no longer own any portion of the resort operations.
It’s interesting to see how people have reacted to the news and for most locals, the comment is that, while not a surprise, the announcement got them right in the heart. Me too.
Jozo Weider changed the world for this area. Without him, there is no telling what the Collingwood Blue Mountain area would be like today. He left a legacy that was born of his vision and, that legacy has touched untold numbers of lives over the past 70+ years.
Many of those who live here can recall working at the resort or, of our kids working there as they made their way through the schools years. They learned to ski or board at Blue, they learned about customer service and about working for a living at Blue Mountain. Others recall lasting memories of their own vacations and adventures.
As the Second World War broke out, Jozo and His wife Helena, sought political asylum in Canada as political refugees from Czechoslovakia. In 1941, they settled in this area on a big hay field at the base of the escarpment with their 3 year old son, George and in partnership with Peter Campbell, began the challenge of developing a ski resort at Blue Mountain. The first ski lift was 2 sleds drawn by a cable system powered by an old truck engine! You can read more about the history here.
While working the fields in the area, Jozo discovered that the soils in the area were full of clay and once again, his vision created Blue Mountain Pottery which operated from 1947 until 2004.
After a tragic car accident in 1971, control of the resort passed to Jozo’s son, George and later, management was turned over to Jozo’s son-in-law, Gord Canning.
I have to add a personal note. George and Barbara Weider have been friends of mine for over 30 years when I first met Barbara in her capacity as the manager of the Georgian Triangle Economic Development Corporation. Over the years, she has been a mentor to me as well as an inspiration to so many through her passion for the arts, her tireless efforts to establish a theatre in the area and her commitment to the South Georgian Bay campus of Georgian College. To give you an idea of how incredibly kind and generous these folks are, they moved me deeply when they attended my father’s funeral, two hours out of town. They are kind and generous with their knowledge, their time and their extreme kindness.
It’s that personal relationship and glimpse it has given me into the Weider family that put a great big lump in my throat when I heard the news. I hope they know how deeply and profoundly they have affected our community as they have sustained and further developed the legacy of Jozo Weider.
As every decade has passed from those early days in the 1940’s, the resort grew and grew which it continues to do today. That 220 metre hill combined with a families vision has brought lifetime memories to millions of people and it has anchored the local economy for over 70 years. The resort will continue, the legacy will grow and all of the Weider family will always live in the people and places that make up this community today. Job well done!