Helena (Helen) Weider passed away, Tuesday, January 22, 2008. At age 101, Helen has an amazing and adventurous life story and is an icon in Blue Mountain Resort’s history.
Helen was born in Czechoslovakia in 1906. As a young woman she lived and worked in Prague, loved the outdoors and took frequent ski trips to the mountains of Slovakia. On one of those she met Josef (later nicknamed Jozo) Weider, an adventurous young entrepreneur who had built a ski lodge in the Carpathian range. She married Jozo in 1934, and the two of them operated their lodge and hosted skiers, hikers and mountain climbers.
Escaping the overtones of war in 1938, Jozo and Helen immigrated to Canada with their baby son George. They first settled in the Peace River district near the Yukon border. Shortly following, Jozo was hired as a ski instructor by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company in Chateau Frontenac in Quebec. By then had two children their daughter Helen had been born in the Peace River district.
At Ste. Marguerite in Quebec Jozo met a wealthy lawyer and businessman Peter Campbell, who encouraged him to come to Blue Mountain. Jozo founded Blue Mountain Resorts Limited, with the backing of Mr. Campbell. Over the next 30 years he expanded Blue Mountain and made it into Ontario’s leading ski resort, with substantial year-round operations.
Throughout Jozo’s career he was supported by Helen, who assisted him in the operation and managed of Blue Mountain’s ski shops, as well as the retail operations of Blue Mountain Pottery, another successful business that Jozo founded. All three daughters (twin girls Anna and Katherine were born in Collingwood) became Canadian ski champions.
After Jozo’s tragic death in an automobile accident in 1971, Helen found solace by taking up residence for 15 years on the south coast of Spain. This was a very creative period in her life. Although 65 years old, she learned Spanish and became fluent in that language, and while there, she renovated and sold two houses, and managed to write two books: Mountain Ballad and Tales of Andalucia.
Helen returned to Blue Mountain in 1986 and lived until recently in a home that her family built for her. Before taking up residence in a retirement home in 2004 she would walk to the new Intrawest Village at Blue Mountain carrying a rucksack on her back which she filled with groceries that she would take home to prepare her own meals.
This hardy woman endured immigration and the hardships of building a resort business, and saw her home country succumb first to Nazi and later Communist domination; and after liberation from totalitarian regimes, division into two nations: Czech and Slovak. In spite of these trials she continued with good health and her own independent ways.
It was 66 years ago that Jozo, with Helen’s support, founded Blue Mountain Resort. In 1999 the Weider family sold a fifty percent interest in Blue Mountain Resort to the Intrawest Corporation. Family members, however continue to be active in the operation. Jozo and Helen's Son in Law, Gordon Canning, is President and CEO and George Weider, Jozo and Helen's son, is Chairman of the Board. The resort has a long and incredible history rooted in family and its people. Reflecting over the years we recognize key influences that have shaped development and also the traditions that make the resort what it is today. Helen will be sadly missed by friends, family and the entire resort community.