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Featured Member: Paul Mathews

Many ISHA members have led adventurous lives on snow, but no one has skied and hiked more mountains than Paul Mathews, founder of the Ecosign resort-planning firm in Whistler, British Columbia. Since 1975, Paul has helped to design or fix more than 500 resorts, in 45 countries.

Paul was born in Arvada, Colorado. In the early 1950s, his parents belonged to the Breckenridge Ski Club, so Paul and his two siblings started riding the old Main Street rope tow at age three. When Colorado’s first double chair went in at Loveland, in 1955, Paul rode it.

In 1959, Paul’s dad was transferred to Seattle, and at age 11 he faced the disappointing prospect of skiing through adolescence on Snoqualmie Pass. Happily, Crystal Mountain opened in 1965, and Whistler the following year. After service in Vietnam (he flew as an electronic warfare technician in A-6 Intruders, off the USS Coral Sea), in 1971he completed a BS in forest ecology at the University of Washington. “I chose forestry because the Washington ski resorts had butchered the land, in terms of erosion,” he said. “I wanted to be part of the solution, so I studied soils, wildlife, dendrology and landscape architecture.”

He named his consulting firm Ecosign, as a contraction of “ecological design.” The first contract was to fix the parking lot chaos at Whistler. Then it was on to master plans for Hemlock Valley, B.C. and Mt Washington on Vancouver Island. Mt Washington was an instant success: opening in  1978, it drew 350,000 skier days right from the start. Today the firm employs 20 planners and design specialists.

Highlights of Paul’s career include planning the lifts and trails for Winter Olympic sites at Calgary, Sochi and Beijing. Today the firm is working on projects in Japan, Korea and Central Asia. He’s most proud of a successful redesign of the lift system at a major French resort, where local officials were skeptical that a North American had anything to teach them.

With his wife Linda, Paul travels and skis widely – this past winter, at Zermatt, Laax, Lenzerheide, Davos, Lech/Zurs – then to Utah, playing guide to a Zermatt executive. Their kids are in the ski business, too: Doug, 30, works at Ecosign, and Mari, 29, after working for the Canadian ski team and FIS, now makes a home in Oslo with her ski-coach partner.

Paul is a strong ISHA supporter, and, through Ecosign, a corporate sponsor. “I love the stories in Skiing History,” he said. “We’re in the fourth generation of skiers in North America, and the magazine helps to pull these generations together. Just working in the industry and living in Whistler, I’ve met about a third of the people I read about in the magazine, and want to feel connected to the rest.”  --Seth Masia