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SAM Magazine—Kelowna, B.C., May 3, 2021—Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) held its annual spring conference virtually, April 26-29. It drew 650 attendees, who participated in daily educational sessions and two special awards presentations. CWSAA

CWSAA CEO Christopher Nicholson said that initial feedback and poll responses from attendees have been positive, as people have become accustomed to virtual formats and organizers more adept at using hosting technology to conduct events. According to Nicholson, the CWSAA team had contingency plans and “backups to backups” in case issues arose with the technology. He also praised the presenters for serving “double duty”—CWSAA had a rehearsal week two weeks in advance of the conference. 

“Like many, CWSAA turned to virtual training and meetings last spring. This helped the industry prepare and execute a successful winter season and adjust to online platforms,” said Nicholson. “This was CWSAA’s first full-week virtual conference, and it appeared to be well received by our 650 delegates. In the past, we would attract up to 500 delegates. As expected, the virtual platform allowed more ski areas and more people at ski areas to participate.”

Each day included four educational sessions, one in each track: HR, business, ops and maintenance, and risk and safety. The sessions covered the gamut of topics, with a variety of experts and operators presenting—including 2021 SAMMY Leadership Award honoree Christian Théberge, who was a presenter for “Crisis Communications: An Internal (Employee) Lens.”

Annual awards presented during the event include:

Jimmie Spencer Lifetime Achievement Award: Bill Dunlop

Lars Fossberg Excellence Award: Sam Oettli

Jim Marshall Leadership Award: Bob Bell 

go2HR Safety Mogul Award: Adrien Grabinski

Nicholson said the team at the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) was a big help. “We would like to thank and recognize NSAA for their generous sharing of knowledge and leadership,” he said.

“As an overall comment on the season, the industry should be very proud of how it quickly responded collectively to the pandemic and was able to maintain employment for their people and provide a safe outdoor experience for their staff, communities, and guests. New technologies were embraced, and in many cases these and new systems will be kept as part of standard operating procedure going forward,” Nicholson concluded.