Al Paul. 1968-2021
On Thursday June 10th, 2021, in the twelfth round of a ten year match, just before the ding of the bell, Al Paul packed up his big heart, stubborn soul, radiant smile, crossed the ropes, and walked away from his battle with brain cancer. Al Paul was the man with two first names, the silver fox, a proud Ottawa Valley boy and small-town kid. Named Allen Robert Paul, he was born and raised on a dairy farm in Almonte, Ontario, which would explain his strong bones and penchant for full-fat cream on his cereal. He was a dedicated and loving son to Eleanor Rintoul (Clapp, Paul) and the late Frank Paul. He spent his childhood working the farm and finding mischief and mayhem with his best friends and siblings: Geoff Paul (Ann), Nancy Laforest (Mike) and Dave Paul (Rachel). His family nucleus was only the beginning of a Paul clan that counted aunts, uncles and cousins as equally cherished protectors and friends. Al’s youthful and ad- venturous taste for life made him the fun uncle who would show up at the door with a trampoline or Xbox and he was proud to call these many good hearts as his nieces, nephews, sometimes ski partners and friends: Alison, Andrew, and Sarah Paul, Alex and Justin Laforest, and Morgan Paul.
After some rambling adventures in France, Australia, and Whitehorse, Al eventually followed his big brother out to the small-town-hot-dog-party in the mountains of Whistler, B.C. He ate, slept, drank and skied. Like so many of us, he also reflected on his future and moved back home for a short time to give the family farm business a go, but flat land and warm milk no longer steadied his feet, and Al quickly found his way back to Whistler. Al spent the first few years working in the Whistler Blackcomb retail warehouse, skiing with joy like his father had taught him and spending his wallet at The Boot Pub. Al was tenacious, stubborn and brave, with an iron will and a compassionate heart – and 27 years ago, that strength and determination saved his life when he took his last sip of alcohol at a 54-40 concert in Vancouver. Al never looked back (even when he was dropping into your line at the top of Fissile or Oboe). He replaced late nights at the bar with first chair every morning. He invested in the slopeside, four-wheeled, ski-in-ski-out luxury of Lot 8 (a van), bought a mountain bike and became the unofficial ambassador of gnar, stoke and getting the goods.
At the turn of the century Al met his future wife, Heather Paul over the phone when they both worked at Whistler Blackcomb. She was the only person he would stop and wait for mid-run, or skip a powder day with the rebel gang to slide around with her. They have been married for 17 years and tethered to each other for 20 – ever since their eyes locked, tied up in the rarest of breeds: one soul living in two bodies.
Al is the very proud father of his “Little Man,” 10-year-old Colt James Paul. Colt is not only missing his daddy, he also lost his ski partner, mountain bike guide, hero and best friend.
Al was the grooming supervisor on Blackcomb when he was first diagnosed with cancer, and defied prognosis and expectations of the smart doctors by continuing that career, eventually retiring after 25 years of service when his cancer returned. Leaving the grooming team was one of the hardest moments for a man who, if he won the lottery, would still drive snowcat – but he managed to poke his head into the grooming shed most mornings to remark on conditions, or tell the staff his tips of the day (“Dudes. It’s time to winch Peak to Creek”).
Al helped both friends and strangers with contagious happiness. After the effects of brain cancer ended his lofty leadership goals in the mountain ranks, he swapped his fancy golf membership fees for a groundskeeper paycheck and all the free golf he could find. Al spent five wonderful years at Nicklaus North Golf Club, where he met so many new tee time partners and always felt like family.
Al left the world the way he lived in it, on his own terms and with his wife and son by his side. “Armed with will, and determination and grace too.”
He is neck deep in powder now, or shooting the round of his life with any angel lucky enough to join him.
Al wanted everyone to know that life is beautiful, worth every adventure you say yes to, and a perfect day can be as large as a long walk up a mountain or as simple as a movie day on the couch with the people you love. Also (and he really can’t stress this enough): He was the best skier on the mountain.
Al Paul. Husband, father, son, brother, uncle, legend, Dude.
In Lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation or Sea to Sky Families Fighting Cancer.