Editor’s note: Canadian ski school legend Don Bilodeau passed away on July 13th. This article by freelance writer Dorothy Isted is in honour of his life and the tremendous con- tribution he made to Panorama Mountain Village and the Columbia Valley community.
By Dorothy Isted Special to The Pioneer
Don Bilodeau ended his days as he had lived them, with honour and concern for the dignity of others. Diagnosed with cancer 18 months earlier, daughter Hannah says her dad “was never a complainer. Always optimistic, could always find the fun or the laughter in anything, even if it was a pretty terrible situation.”
When the worst news arrived, “Stu and I both dropped our jobs and spent the last days at our family cabin at Savary Island [on the Sunshine Coast.] We got him out there and that was the only place he wanted to be, and we stayed there with him. He was overjoyed that his family could be with him and we could be at Savary Island all together.”
adventure from my grandfather,” Hannah said. “Because my grandfather was raised in an orphanage, he really tried to give his kids everything he could because he hardly had anything growing up. He was always taking them on little adventures and places… he took my dad skiing for the first time. The kind of stuff that didn’t really happen in Buffalo, New York.”
Don graduated from Alfred State College and University in New York with a degree in business administration and accounting.
“He minored in marketing,” his daughter explained. “That’s definitely why he got his marketing positions later on, for Panorama, RK Heliski, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.” Don became passionate about skiing in high school and, by the time he was in his mid-20s, he had worked himself into the position of Director of Skiing at Blue Mountain in Ontario. In 1980, Don became a member of the Canadian Ski Instruc- tors Alliance (CSIA) demo team, headed by Andre Schwarz.
A service was held in Fairmont on July 19th, but according to Hannah, “It wasn’t a funeral. It was a celebration of life.” The next day the family hit golf balls up the mountain at the Elkhorn Cabin at Panorama and shot the potato gun there in memory of Don.
Andre said, “Don took the time. What we came up with, he put into words,” said Schwarz. “He was always working hard, he never shied from taking on a job whether it paid or not. He always pulled forward, positive thinking, everything was always with a lot of fun. He pulled pranks, as everybody heard at the eulogy. He was witty, smart, a lateral thinker, always an interesting guy to be around. Fabulous guy, I’m sad we lost him.”