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Bergeron says Altitude will be back

Value and price still a big issue for Whistler’s gay ski week

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"I found that it was an interesting note that that market did not cancel despite the weather but I think the most successful thing from our perspective was that the event was kept alive.

"Based on the fact that the founder, Mr. Benaschak, passed way and then the event was floundering, but this year it was able to maintain its momentum… so it was good to see it happen."

While it is clear that Bergeron might be heading in the right direction, several people who attended the event this year talked about some of the fundamental elements that need to be revisited.

Sean Kearns from GayWhistler.com, a website aimed at bringing gay people to Whistler year round, highlighted that price and value was still a problem. Feedback on Altitude’s own website also suggested this continues to be an issue.

"I am a big proponent of Tourism Whistler’s value proposition and this year the value was just not there," said Kearns. "They simply priced themselves out of the market.

"Altitude used to be about the skiing, camaraderie, fun, dancing and affordable entertainment," he said. "These are the elements that have made the week so successful in the past.

"I hope Altitude can come back to its roots and rebuild itself not as a circuit party but as a gay ski week. I wish the producers best of luck and best wishes."

Xtra West, a bi-weekly gay and lesbian magazine in Vancouver, tackled some of the issues regarding Bergeron’s business reputation in a Jan. 6 article by Robin Perelle. Perelle wrote that "questions are surfacing about the event’s viability and the integrity of its new owner."

The story went on to point out that Bergeron knew exactly what he was getting himself into. "When he heard about (Brent) Benaschak’s death, he called his parents to offer condolences. Then he offered to buy the company.

"That was last January (2004). Though the family quickly appointed Bergeron director, they only finalized the purchasing agreement 11 months later, in late November – just two months before Altitude 2005’s scheduled kick-off."

Xtra West’s publisher and editor-in-chief Ken Hickling said the article had generated a lot of discussion.

"We take a slightly different angle on this as you would in Whistler because for us it’s about (the gay) community," said Hickling.

"That story garnered a lot of commentary from our readers and it was probably right down the middle with people who agreed and disagreed with what they (the organizers) were saying.