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Feature - Untouchable

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

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Although the following year there was some question of whether the entire festival might disappear from the face of the earth. The day was overcast and snowy. The crowd was ugly. Sloan, the band on the stage at the base of Whistler Mountain, was between sets. The snowboarders hucking big air were not coming fast enough to keep a fever pitch of interest sustained. The VIPs were vipping on the nearby deck of the GLC. Westbeach, who was managing the event, weren’t on their toes. Did I mention the crowd was ugly?

Idle hands and the devil’s work came together. No one knows for sure who threw the first snowball. For that matter, no one knows for sure who threw the ensuing 1,000 snowballs. The VIPs scurried for cover inside the restaurant, clutching cell phones speed dialling 911. The band abandoned the stage. The crowd grew uglier. The security was nowhere near adequate.

Maybe it was that famous Whistler secondhand smoke or maybe everyone’s hands just got too cold to continue. No one knows that either. But the riot that nearly was, caused everyone involved with the festival to take a sober second look. Security was beefed up, some events were toned down, everyone came away with a heightened appreciation for just how ugly a mob can be. And the beat goes on.

Shadows and light…

Resting firmly like a milk stool on three legs of skiing, boarding and music, the festival should have been rock solid. But something was still missing. On-mountain events hummed and music filled the village until late afternoon. Industry parties and general merriment carried on into the wee hours. There was a gap though.

Sometimes genius takes odd forms. It must have seemed that way to Doug when the idea first dawned on him that what the festival really needed was… a slide show?

"It was just another experiment," he shrugs offhandedly. "The idea was to let some of the industry’s best shooters go head to head in front of a crowd. We were lucky. The images that first year were incredible. It made us realize how important photography is to our industry."

The first Pro Photographer Showdown featured some of the best images Eric Berger and Jack Turner could cull from their files, a driving soundtrack and, surprise, surprise, a wildly enthusiastic crowd. It was the little idea that could. Stunning images joined music and mountain sports and rounded out the festival.