Story by Miguel Strother
Vacay.ca Sports Editor, Western Canada
It’s said that when it comes to travel, the real joy is in the journey, not the destination. However, we simply can’t get to Whistler for the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival fast enough.
From the biggest names in music to gnarliest skiers and snowboarders in the winter sports biz, the festival, which runs from April 17-22, is a serious celebration of life in British Columbia’s mountains. And it could also get a whole lot bigger. According to organizer Jess Smith, some big news about the evolution of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival could break shortly,. This relates to a partnership with ESPN and the X Games.
“We are now shortlisted for potentially getting the X Games,” says Smith. “It’s grown big enough to become a world-class event and we’ll find out in April. What would happen is that we would combine with X Games and ESPN and those guys and add more events like snowmobiling and that sort of thing, so it will really change the outlook of it all and bring it to a bigger audience.”
Even without X Games, the Telus event might just be one of the best times to roll into this resort town. The slopes light up in spring, sometimes with Ts and bikinis, sometimes with one final set of flurries from Mother Nature before crews start setting up for mountain bike season. Regardless, it’s always a riot.
“Where to start with the parties,” says Smith, aka the Festival Goddess. “It’s always a great time. All of the skiers and snowboarders love the chance to come and celebrate the end of the season. And to be honest the athletes really know how to party. They go out and they work hard and they party harder.”
Smith fondly remembers the human pyramids that became an impromptu attraction at the free skier party last year. “I am not sure if it is just skiers who love doing that, but it was all about the human pyramid.”
Make no mistake, it is one jumpin’ journey from Vancouver up Whistler way. Perhaps the best legacy of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics is the early sections on the Sea to Sky Highway between Whistler and Squamish. Gone are the days when a loaded down beater of ski bums, a minor rock slide, or one nervous tourist on the single line road added significant time to the trip. In are the finest automobiles on earth putting intentions to the test on a perfectly crafted four-lane highway just made for opening it up. On a good day, the ride up Highway 99 is under two hours from downtown Vancouver. And as nice as the trip is tracing the jagged edge of the Pacific Ocean into the British Columbian wilderness, the sooner it’s over, the sooner you’re joining the party at the finest ski and snowboard resort known to man.
This year’s on-mountain events for Whistler’s Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival involve the World Skiing Invitational/AFP World Championships, including the Superpipe, Slopestyle and Big Air competitions, as well as an ongoing concert series loaded with top name talent. The best part about it? Almost all the events at the festival are free to attend. The resort also offers up prime hotel deals during the festival.
“Tourism Whistler is putting on a good deal right now where you can book two nights and get a ticket to our sold-out events,” says Smith.” It’s definitely first come, first serve though. But we’ve got some really amazing hotel partners this year.”
Some of the hotel packages include two days of lift tickets and two nights’ lodging from $97 per person.
Attendees will no doubt crowd around the base of Whistler Mountain in the village’s Skier’s Plaza for the electrifying Big Air competition. That event will be charged with the bravado and aerial talents of a who’s who in the ski and snowboard world. These maniacs of winter go beyond big as they huck down eye-popping tricks for open-jawed onlookers enjoying a beverage below. It’s all part of an attempt to walk away with the coveted title of Big Air Champion, a fat cheque and a new Chevrolet Sonic. Although the full list of invites doesn’t go out until after X Games Europe, previous winners Bobby Brown and Ashley Battersby are sure to return as are top pros Henrik Harlaut, JF Houle, Maude Raymond and Kaya Turski.
On the entertainment side of the festival (again, totally free) one of the finest après scenes in the mountains gets that much better with the addition of the main stage to Skier’s Plaza. Skiers and snowboarders will slip right off the slopes and into a wall of sound and a hoppin’ party in the public square. This part of Whistler Village is edged by excellent après restaurants and pubs like the Longhorn Saloon, Sushi Village, and Dubh Linn Gate Old Irish pub, all of which are perfectly positioned to take in the performances. This year’s confirmed acts include The Dudes (April 14), Swollen Members (April 15), Cat Empire (April 17), DJ Grandtheft (April 21), and The Sheepdogs (April 22).
And with talent like that around town it’ll likely be easy for the Telus Festival to live up to its unofficial motto: “Party in April, Sleep in May.”
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