A Tale of Three Gibsons

Youngest brother Rick is a longtime realtor, resident, snowshoer and skier who has been involved with Mount Washington almost as many years as Peter. Only Rick will not be retiring anytime soon.

Rick, Peter and Ally enjoying the day at Saratoga Beach Resort with their Mother.
Rick, Peter and Ally enjoying the day at Saratoga Beach Resort with their Mother.

There are actually three Gibson brothers: Peter is the oldest, then Ally (“short for Alastair but I’m only called that when I’m in trouble.”) in the middle and Rick is the youngest. “As a family, we all skied,” says Ally. After relocating the family to the Comox Valley from Cranbook, B.C. in 1960 after their father, a doctor, was offered a job as the Director of the Upper Island Health Unit, the Gibsons built a cabin on Forbidden Plateau. This was long before Mount Washington Alpine Resort was created, and all three boys learned to ski at Forbidden. 

Peter raced with the Fanny Dunker Ski Club, earning the coveted Wells Gray Trophy at Forbidden three years in a row. Ally worked on the ski patrol on Forbidden and was also on the race team. “Peter won most races and I was listed as ‘also ran,’” says Ally. “When Mount Washington opened I joined the ski patrol and patrolled there many years. I enjoyed the ski patrol and it taught me skills second to none in regard to helping injured folks. I still can handle any type of emergency and triage my way through any situation.”

Rick has owned property at Mount Washington since 1979 - he got in in the early years, and was a skier too, although not as involved as Peter. Rick has been selling real estate around the Resort since 1989, and has lived on and off the mountain over the past couple of decades. “I have not lived full time on the mountain in seven or eight years,” he says. “We are moving up full time though in December.” Rick admits he doesn’t ski as much as he should anymore, but he loves to hike or snowshoe through Paradise Meadows - his Facebook feed is often full of scenic photos from his adventures.

While Peter’s and Rick’s hearts remained with Mount Washington, Ally found his love in the forest. Ally started as a logger in 1974 in Menzies Bay, working for MacMillan Bloedel.  “As was common with most folks that went into logging, I did all aspects of the logging industry. I planted trees, felled trees and worked on yarding them from the stump to the road. I decided there must be a job in the woods that was less work and one that wouldn’t result in me being killed so I moved into the world of forestry engineering,” Ally said.  “I started at the bottom and took some courses, and through battle field promotions I was able to join the Association of Forestry Professionals and became the Area Engineer.”

After the company he worked for was sold a few times, Ally ended up in Nanoose working with Island Timberlands as Area Engineer for the North Island operations. He retired two years ago as Harvest Manager for IT, but still does a little consulting.

Ally earned his 15 minutes of fame in 1993 when he and another forestry engineer, Randall Dayton, discovered one of the tallest Alaskan Yellow Cedar (also known as Cypress) trees on Vancouver Island near Sayward, 70 kilometres north of Campbell River. The tree was more than 2,000 years old, stood 200 feet tall and was 13.7 feet in diameter. At the time the tree - named Sergeant RandAlly - was a record breaker, and a recreational park was being developed in the area. The tree fell down in a windstorm shortly before the park opened, in March 2004, and was left lying on the forest floor for nature to reclaim it.

Although the three brothers have done separate things with their careers, they are still “uber-close”, as Ally puts it, and get together several times a year for family dinners. Rick is the gourmet chef in the family, and usually hosts these events.

“It goes without saying Peter has gone beyond commitment to Mount Washington as the hill is part of him. It is his identity and one that he has embraced with passion,” says Ally. “The mountain is what it is today because of his efforts. I worry when he retires he will realize a large void and I hope he is able to fill it with something as meaningful as the mountain has been for him. I’ve had several conversations with him in that regard so time will tell."

 “Rick has also done very well for himself. He started at the bottom and worked up to where he is today and is very successful. He had a recent and very sad tragedy of which he handled with amazing strength and resolve,” he says. “I’m very proud of both my brothers.”