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A celebration in progress

From snowball fights to showdowns to uphill races and now theatre, G.D. Maxwell extols the evolution of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival continues



By G.D. Maxwell

All across the ski world there’s a common sound this time of year. It’s the sound of ski hills being closed for the season, mountain resorts winding down and segueing into the nether world of shoulder season, the slap of flip-flops replacing the clunk of ski boots.

The rituals of spring are being played out. Skis are being waxed and relegated to the space in closets recently abandoned by golf clubs. Roof racks that carried them are being swapped out for bike carriers and kayak holders. Light is replacing darkness just in time for sunglasses to carry the load goggles did all winter. Or so it seems.

And in Whistler, April has risen, Lent has passed and it’s time to get down and party one more time before last November’s instant locals take off for adventure, home, and the absolute certainty that life, wherever it plays out, won’t play quite as hard as it has since they first arrived, livers and savings intact, in the final weeks of… was it just last year?

So with three metres of snow still on the mountain, days that bounce between frigid and wilting, bank accounts and immune systems drained of reserves, what’s a Whistlerite to do? Hell, get down and party. It’s Festival time. Motto: Party in April; detox in May.

Tripping gracefully into adolescence — a state all too familiar to the aging population of this town — the TELUS World Ski and Snowboard Festival is getting ready to rock Whistler for the 12 th time, an anniversary few thought it would reach given its shaky start.

The story’s familiar by now, except to those celebrating their first installment of Festival Follies. Back in the dark ages, when Whistler pretty much celebrated April like most ski resorts, with a smattering of econotourists and hard-core locals who can never get too much of a good thing, Doug Perry was desperate to find some way to make a living out of doing what he loved most: skiing.

Having come to the grim realization that he had the grace and skill of a pro skier and the knees of a pro curler, Doug couldn’t reconcile himself to the usual options available to post-competitive skiers: ski instructor, ski bum, ski sales rep, ski bum, ski coach, ski bum. He figured why die a slow death when he could blow his brains with one Quixotic, ill-timed extravaganza. Thus was born the World Technical Skiing Championships... in April.

Boasting such traditional, crowd-pleasing events as speed skiing, powder 8s, freestyle and something called the Bigfoot Challenge, the festival was about as successful as most people kept telling him it would be, which is to say the Second Annual World Technical Skiing Championships seemed like a very, very long shot.