If theres one thing thats consistent about the athletics side of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, its that the events are inconsistent and athletes and organizers wouldnt have it any other way. As sports evolve, so should the contests.
Back in December the principals of W1, which produces the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, met with their athletes to discuss formats and invite lists for this year. According to WSSF founder and president Doug Perry, two sides of the equation are coming together for the first time this year.
"In December we gathered Whistlers top skiers and snowboarders to ask them what they wanted Aprils events to look like event formats, disciplines, all the details," said Perry. "It was the first time we had all the skiers and snowboarders in the same room at the same time. I guess the way that skiing and snowboarding are evolving, theyre both on the mountain in the same place at the same time, the feedback was to do the competitions together. That divide is no longer there."
Skiers and snowboarders will be grouped and judged separately, but the finals for every event will feature both skiers and riders for the first time. And while the athletes arent competing for the same prize money, Perry believes that competing side by side will only push the athletes to go harder.
"(Skiers and boarders) already do compete a little, and thats the spirit of competition. They feed off each others energy," said Perry. "Theres obviously a lot of camaraderie there, but theres also still a bit of a rivalry to fuel the fire."
The athletes and spectators also wanted to see a return of the big air event to the village, after organizers decided to skip the event last year in favour of a slopestyle not that there was enough snow at the base of the mountain to run a proper event anyway.
The Playstation Big Air will return for the evening of April 22, the second Saturday of the festival.
The organizers also decided to keep the slopestyle event alive in a slightly different form. The Stompede will take place on a small closed course near the top of the Emerald Chair, and will feature rails, boxes, hips and a huge tabletop.
"(The Stompede) really emerged from an open discussion about the challenges that the slopestyle has. They can be difficult events to watch, judge and televise, and given the length of the course and where they have to be located we created a concept to bring the best elements of slopestyle together in a high traffic area, where everyone can watch the skiers and riders interpret the course in their own way," said Perry.