By Yvonne Dick
Robert Curphey says the best way to start training for downhill skiing is by doing it. Although he has been downhill skiing for most of his life, he felt it was time to embrace a new and fresh challenge, so he took time off work as a sales rep.
His goal: to challenge himself on the downhill EpicMix Leaderboard Race for an entire skiing season. It runs through Vail Resorts at Whistler in British Columbia. If you aren’t familiar with the sport, a season can last around seven months of the year. Curphey won the event this year by skiing more than 6.138 million vertical feet.
Training by doing has worked for Curphey since the beginning of his real estate career. He started when he was in his early 20s. For 29 years he has been a sales rep and he is currently with Re/Max Hallmark Realty Group in downtown Ottawa. From his office on O’Connor Street, he can see the high-rise buildings and fast-paced life of the big city. Ottawa is currently a place where buyers over-bid and sellers have their pick of prices for real estate of all sorts. Getting away to his cottage at the lake or beloved mountain slopes is what keeps Curphey sane, he says.
“In the beginning, I had a lot of training, and that made a huge difference to my real estate career,” says Curphey, “As time went on, I saw colleagues working non-stop. Real estate can become your whole life very quickly, it becomes your identity and it’s been my experience that many Realtors have no plans to retire.”
As he saw many successful salespeople working until they grew old and passed away, Curphey realized his own career path needed work-life balance. Engaging in a hobby/sport that is a passion outside of the job helps him keep centred. As you move on in your career, Curphey says that in some ways it becomes easier because your network of contacts keeps expanding. You can become stressed out more easily just as you are reaching your most success. That is when it is time to flip the switch and do something else for a while, he says. It avoids burnout.
“It felt great to take the time off to ski Whistler Blackcomb. I did the entire season,” he says. “We had a family road trip. My wife and I loaded up the family and drove all the way from Ottawa to Whistler. There was family time and some more casual skiing.”
Some days were black diamond trail skiing and others a bit more leisurely depending on whether he had one of his children skiing with him.
Much as he puts all of himself into his real estate career, while in Whistler he focused on his second passion. Curphey says, “That is what I did every day of the season. Some days I skied without a lunch break, other days I took it a bit easier. I was totally refreshed when I came back to the office. Ready to go and feeling great again.”
Curphey has skied more than six million vertical feet through powder and wind, cold and sun. The trails at Whistler Blackcomb provide a range of levels and lengths of ski experiences. Curphey became the EpicMix Leaderboard “monster” for the 2017/2018 season. This is linked to an app that keeps track of daily, seasonal and years of skiing. He won more than 70 “pins” for a variety of categories, such as skiing over 150 days in a season. Skiing on Thanksgiving gave him the Snow Turkey Pin, and he got the Snow Elf pin for going out on Christmas.
Since the late 1980s, Whistler has been one of Curphey’s second ski homes. He likes to vary the trails he uses, and Whistler has more than 200 ski runs. He put in 45,000 to 75,000 vertical feet of skiing.
Curphey’s specialty is dealing with multi-family properties. He now sells about 75 per cent residential and 25 per cent small multi-unit dwellings, such as 60-unit or fewer apartment buildings. While he took the time off to live his skiing dream, Curphey found that many of his clients waited until his return to do their real estate business. Those who needed help right away were referred to colleagues.
“The ones who waited for me were clients I have had more of a long-term relationship with. I am in real estate for the long term, and I’ve noticed that some of the really top agents diligently slot time off. The year I chose to do this, I had sold a couple of my own properties and did well with commissions in the six months before I took time off.”
Curphey adds, “Real estate is a momentum-based business.” He says once you grow a large client base, time management becomes the biggest challenge and you must learn to tell clients that “this time would work better”, rather than jumping “right now all the time.
“I am the most grateful Realtor. I love buying and selling real estate. Taking time that time off was life-altering. I needed a break because I’m not ready to retire.”