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Feature - Untouchable

From humble beginnings the World Ski and Snowboard Festival has become the ultimate celebration of snow sports


By G.D. Maxwell

One, is the loneliest number you can ever do. Coincidences happen in pairs. Disasters strike in threes.

But fours? Well-balanced meals come in four courses. Four is the elemental number of the fabled Consultant’s Decision Algorithm: Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo. There’s four on the floor, the Fab Four, the Final Four and the Fantastic Four. Not to mention four wheel drive, four strong winds, the four points of a compass, four seasons and lucky four-leaf clovers. Our tongues can only sense four tastes, five if you count ice cream.

And the World Ski and Snowboard Festival – simply the biggest and best mountain party to celebrate skiing’s season of death – rests firmly on four pillars: skiing, boarding, music and images. This year’s instalment promises to follow the trajectory of years past: bigger, better, wilder and with a few new twists to blow your minds.

Not bad for a hare-brained idea with humble beginnings.

The sound of one hand clapping…

Well, humble might be overstating the case. It was the early 1990s and Doug Perry was facing what some might call a premature mid-life crisis. To wit: how does a boy with a serious Jones for skiing keep making a living at it when his knees, or what’s left of them, tell him it’s time to quit?

And then he remembered a very cool event he’d attended while travelling the world on Salomon’s international pro team. Dubbed the All Japan Technical Skiing Championships, it was structured as a decathlon skiing competition – freeskiing, steeps, moguls, racing and variations on those basic themes. The goal was to find the best all-round skier and make him God for a Day.

Doug thought the idea might work in a North American context and it just might have. We’ll never know for sure because that first year’s instalment of what would become the WSSF – called at the time the World Technical Skiing Championships – was merely the anvil on which today’s festival was hammered out. Events included the World Speed Skiing Championships, freestyle, powder 8s and several other, long since abandoned extravaganzas.

"Sponsors were scarce that first year, spectators scarcer," he remembered. "But what did emerge from that shaky start was exposure. The events brought athletes together who’d never competed before – and who’d never been to Whistler – and it brought some key ski media to town who didn’t have a clue what they were missing."

What they were missing, of course, was two whopping big mountains that have unparalleled riding well into what other mountain resorts generally refer to as the "golf season," compliments of copious amounts of Wet Coast powder and down and dirty Canadian winters.