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EMBA student profile: The adventurer

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(Photo: Darren Hull)

Paul Norrie, Athabasca University

“From a skier’s perspective, this is just as good as it gets,” says Paul Norrie, president of Mica Heliskiing in Revelstoke, B.C., explaining the luxury ski tours he leads. Here’s how it works: Norrie’s team meets the clientele—mostly business-savvy professionals from as far as Russia and Dubai—at the airport and transports them to an upscale lodge perched on the western slope of the Rockies. Between luxury accommodations and gourmet meals, skiers are transported via helicopter as high as Mother Nature will allow—almost 11,000 feet on a blue-sky day—to enjoy hour-long runs with spectacular views. “With a half-million acres of terrain and only 16 people skiing virgin powder, there’s just nothing comparable,” he says. Norrie, who studied geography and physical education at the University of Alberta, first landed at Mica’s sister company, Island Lake Lodge, as a mountain guide in 1998. Later, while living in Banff, Norrie completed a six-year international certification with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. He was named Mica’s president in 2005 (though he’s still an active mountain guide, he notes), but felt he was missing some crucial knowledge. “I reached a point where I had formal training as a mountain guide, but no formal training in business to move me to the next step,” he says. And so Norrie asked his wife a big question: “What if I went back to school?” With a then two-year-old, and another child on the way, an MBA from Alberta’s Athabasca University—which mixes in-residence and online components—would be a delicate balancing act between the books and the slopes. “Three years later, many, many, many papers and study weekends later, it’s come to an end and been excellent,” he says. Business is booming—Mica won Skiing Magazine’s 2011 pick for Best Heliskiing—and Norrie’s got an usual claim to fame: “I’m one of few mountain guides who decided to go back and get their master’s in business, that’s for sure.”

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