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Countdown starts for the World Ski and Snowboard Festival

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Bookings already strong in advance of marketing campaign

To catch every event offered during the 10 days of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, you’d have to stay awake all 240 hours and find a way to be in two places at once.

With one week to go before the ninth annual festival, organizers are expecting good crowds and a lot of interest in literally dozens of events. There are pro ski and snowboard events, 50 free concerts, photography and film showcases, festival parties, activities for kids, activities for adults, and a running industry expo featuring all of next year’s hot equipment. There’s even a dog parade which attracts thousands of spectators.

"If you look at the festival and break it apart, the first weekend is tracking stronger bookings than at this time last year," said Doug Perry, the founder, president and CEO of W1, the company behind the TWSSF.

"The second weekend, it looks like bookings are on par or slightly below last year’s pace. That’s our analysis at this point in time, but on that note it’s interesting to point out that we’re still on the eve of a big, concentrated promotional push that the festival will be doing along with our media partners."

The regional campaign started on Thursday, with promotions on television, radio, and in print.

Global Television will be broadcasting highlights from the 2003 festival over the next three weeks. A two-week print campaign will start in the Vancouver Sun on Saturday, and radio spots and contests will get underway this weekend on Mountain FM and CFOX in Vancouver.

W1 is also taking advantage of other less mainstream promotional opportunities as well as the conventional means. More than 350 New Ad posters promoting the festival will go up in restaurant and bar washrooms in Vancouver.

Club Vibes, an online service, will send e-mails to 125,000 members focussing on the music line-up for the festival.

Whistler-based Snowboard.com will also send more than a million e-mails to its half a million members.

Another 12,000 club cards will be distributed around Vancouver, also focussing on the music lineup.

Telus, the main sponsor of the festival, will also promote the festival in newspapers and television. In keeping with their animal campaign, the ad spots will feature a "rockin’ pony". Telus Internet subscribers will also receive e-mails.

Another massive promotion is underway with McDonald’s. Anyone who spends $15 or more at any Lower Mainland McDonald’s franchise will receive a two-for-one voucher for lift tickets at Whistler-Blackcomb, valid only during the festival.

Ski Press, a national ski publication, will also publish 50,000 copies of a festival edition, which will be available in Vancouver and Whistler.

"When you add it all up, it’s quite a substantial campaign targeting the regional markets and none of these things have really happened yet," said Perry. "Regionally, the way people book travel is shorter trips with shorter and shorter lead times, so it’s still too early to tell how busy the weekends are going to be."

Landing the Black Eyed Peas for the festival was a major coup. The hip-hop act sold out its nine-stop Canadian tour in less than 20 minutes, and Perry expects that the band will be a huge draw to the festival.

"It’s already creating a huge buzz out there. You take all our strong musical acts, like Bif Naked, Gob and Black Eyed Peas, and they’re all scattered around the last part of the festival, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, so the incentive is to get people up here in the week and hopefully get them to stay for the weekend."

Sports fans will also have a reason to come, with strong international lineups in both the Ripzone Snowboard Invitational and World Skiing Invitational.

The cultural side of the festival is also taking off, with more interest in the Panasonic Pro Photographer Search and Showdown and the Panasonic Filmmaker Showdown.

"When the Pro Photographer Search started it was pretty much a local event," said Perry. "This year there were 50 submissions from seven countries, and there are some pretty big names in there and strong international interest.

"That’s what’s going on, and everybody here is going to be working their hardest to see if we can bring more people to Whistler."

A schedule of events is available at the TWSSF Web site at www.whistler2004.com.

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