Introducing Mt.Washington's Three Marketeers (or Three Stooges?)
It?s 1:30 p.m. on a weekday in skiing?s pre-season and laughter floats out of the marketing department, permeating the downstairs office at Mt. Washington?s alpine lodge. If one were to listen more closely, one might think the room?s occupants were practicing a Three Stooges skit.
Mt.Washington marketing director Karen Bonell just shakes her head. ?Those are my boys,? she says. The ?boys? are Van Eyke Olivier, Dave Hampshire and Chris Hounsell. Separately, they are events co-ordinator, public relations co-ordinator and retail sales representative, respectively. Together, however, they are the laugh-a-minute trio responsible for the marketing of Mt. Washington.
?They?re definitely outgoing,? Bonell says, laughing. ?And loud.? Hounsell is the ?veteran? of the bunch, having started work on the mountain three years ago. However, he only moved into his sales position in June 2001. Olivier started work on the mountain in December 2000 and moved into his current role in February. Hampshire started on July 3.
When Olivier first came to the valley from South Africa he worked below sea level, with a scuba diving operation. ?It?s not really a big enough industry to make a living. I had to look around,? he said. In South Africa he worked full-time for a scuba dive charter company, and worked part-time organizing events.
The 3 Marketeers are Chris Hounsell, Van Eyke Olivier & Dave Hampshire. All for one and one for all!
Olivier started work at the mountain with the ski and snowboard watchdog program, with the intention of moving into the marketing department. When public relations and events were split into two jobs in February, he got his chance. ?Having had event experience in South Africa, it was a perfect fit,? he said. He was also a stand-up comic, having participated in eight international comedy shows and worked the pubs and clubs in South Africa for two years - also a perfect fit for working in the marketing department.
Hampshire is a familiar face to the Comox Valley. He grew up in the valley from grades three to 12 - his parents still live in Courtenay. ?I came back to work at the Eagle FM 97.3. I was there for a couple of years,? he said. ?I really enjoyed it.? Hampshire was at Mt. Washington for opening day in December 1979. ?I use to hitchhike up here in the back of pick-ups,? he says, when the access road ?was a one-lane goat track. As 14-year-olds we had no problems getting rides. We used to be frozen by the time we got up here.?
Hampshire left the valley to join the army for a few years, before getting into radio broadcasting. He ran the Eagle?s Snow Team while at the fledgling radio station, and reacquainted himself with the hill. When he moved to Q-FM in Victoria last year, he ran that Snow Team as well. He met Olivier during a Dummy Downhill and Slush Cup event weekend.
Hounsell has the deepest ski background of the trio. He worked at a ski shop part-time and was a professional ski patroller at Marble Mountain in Newfoundland for 10 years. He?s been skiing since he was four years old. He came to the valley originally to visit his brother in Campbell River.
?I?m still visiting. That was three years ago,? he says. At Mt. Washington, he was group co-ordinator for the rental department and was also a rental technician. The jump to sales rep was not so crazy for Hounsell, who has a business diploma and wanted to use it within the ski industry. He now takes care of multiple group sales and deals with large and small group numbers. ?This is my life?s blood,? he says.
The trio spent the fall season ?bonding? at ski shows, preparing for the busy winter. ?We sell fun,? says Hampshire. ?And adventure,? Hounsell adds.
Each has his specific role: Olivier plans, executes and wraps up the special events along with a special events committee. Hampshire?s role is to increase the resort?s exposure while at the same time deal with corporate sponsors, handle all media requests and give Olivier a hand. He is also running the Snow Host program - managing the volunteers who greet guests to the resort.
?We all have strengths that complement each other,? Hampshire said. ?It?s usually okay when Dave has three cups of coffee before 12 o?clock,? Olivier quips. ?We?re always asking each other questions,? Hounsell says. ?The three of us are here because we have a vested interest in the outdoor life,? Hampshire said. ?There?s a strong passion between the four of us (including Bonell).?
Bonell says she?s happy to have all three of ?her boys? on board. ?They bring excitement and enthusiasm to the marketing of Mt. Washington. They each bring unique talents that complement the rest of the team,? she says. ?If somebody?s strong in this and somebody else isn?t, they?re able to pick it up.?
?We?re pretty lucky guys,? Hampshire says in all seriousness. ?Big time. To have that support from the rest of the resort is beyond belief.?