From the latest edition of Ski Canada magazine…
“Around the same time readers first started turning pages of Ski Canada 50 years ago, Paul Marner, then a 14-year-old grade 10 student from the burbs of Toronto, was busy cooking up with his French teacher the first of countless group ski trips to Quebec. The young entrepreneur and definitive “freeskier” quickly learned how he could ski on someone else’s dime. (All it required was hours of organization and sales talk.) By grade 13 he had 500 students in buses heading to Quebec City during Christmas and March Breaks. Half a century later, Marner’s still at it with Merit Travel.
Most of the “lifers” in the ski-biz have worked directly with resorts or ski gear and clothing manufacturers, while Marner was the guy who got bums onto buses, planes and, indirectly, to ski shops. More than 250,000 by Marner’s count—and only one ski trip with a murder, but that’s a story for Ski Canada’s and Marner’s 100th anniversaries.
Before Breakaway Tours was founded in the early ’80s though, Marner worked for Majestic Travel and set up his own ski shop, Ski Connection, in the agency’s basement. “We leased skis and did tune-ups; as well, I used to buy close-outs of clothing and skis,” says Marner.
After Majestic and Breakaway Tours, Marner headed up Gotta Travel, which morphed into Ultimate Ski & Golf Vacations. (Remember Ultimate’s red carpet “Excite Flight” direct charter to Tremblant from the free parking at Toronto’s exclusive Executive Terminal?) Cross-promoting with Elan, Labatt, Bacardi, Columbia, Avalanche and radio stations like Q107, it was tough to curb his enthusiasm for our sport. He still has a copy of the formal response from the White House following his gracious invitation to U.S. President Ronald Reagan to take a ski break while discussing acid rain and the DEW line with Brian Mulroney during Quebec City’s Shamrock Summit.
Marner has since settled down with Merit Travel Ski Vacations, offering more than 100 resorts from the best of B.C., Alberta, Quebec, U.S. East and West and the Alps. And like many who have worked in the ski industry a long time, he’s at home leading a group of skiers.. As Ski Canada celebrates its 50th anniversary, they hope for a much better winter than the last. Certainly there’s more anticipation than ever for making travel plans and the memories that will follow. “