One of the biggest stars in the lineup for the 2010 Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival is an inanimate object - a Global Pipe Cutter, borrowed by Development Snowparks' John Melville and wielded by Steve Petrie of Arena Snowparks.
This machine is capable of producing Olympic-sized superpipes with 22-foot walls, similar to the one that athletes used in the 2010 Winter Games. The payoff is more speed, more airtime and safer landings, which encourages skiers and riders to land bigger tricks.
The pipe is the sole event of the World Skiing Invitational, with $50,000 in prize money for the top men and women in the sport - one of the largest prize purses on the circuit for a single event - plus another $20,000 in prizes. The top three men in the pipe will earn $15,000, $8,000 and $4,000 respectively and the top three women will earn $7,500, $3,000 and $1,000, with an additional $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000 in prizing.
As well, the organizers are presenting a cash prize to the top skier in the athlete-judged SuperHit contest for landing the best trick in a special post-pipe jam session.
The winners of the men's and women's Superpipe will also have a one-in-four chance of winning a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.
The WSI Superpipe takes place from April 18 to 20, with training on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., qualifiers on Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the semi-finals and finals on Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Superhit contest is from 2:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. with the awards taking place on the mainstage at 3:45 p.m.
The list of athletes is still coming together but includes Justin Dorey, Tucker Perkins, Sarah Burke, Mike Riddle, Peter Olenick, Grete Eliasson and others.
The Big Air competition is missing from the WSI lineup this year, which was a tough decision according to TWSSF organizers. However, given the nightly big air events during the Olympics and the decision to host the Orage Masters at the base of the mountain this year a decision was made to forgo the Big Air and bring it back in 2011.
To compensate, the Park Rider Sessions presented by Telus is hosting an amateur slopestyle competition on April 18 on Whistler Mountain and inviting all the WSI athletes to take part.
The Orage Masters, which is returning to Whistler for the third consecutive year, is a team industry event where ski manufacturers pit their skiers against one another in a slopestyle contest. It's a fun, spectator-friendly format that's judged by the athletes themselves as well as a panel from Orage. Costumes are mandatory. It takes place in the village on Saturday, April 17.
The course will be open for training from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, with the competition running from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Last but not least is the Grenade Games, a fun contest organized by snowboard mainstay Danny Kass. The first day is a "Search and Recovery Mission," or scavenger hunt that is open to pretty much anyone on April 21. Next up is the popular Dual Slalom Moguls contest on April 22 and the Superpipe on April 23. Riders are welcome to register for those events but attendance in the Grand Finale event - a slopestyle at the base of the mountain using elements of the Orage course - is by invitation only.
In addition to the riders that have already been confirmed for the final, Kass will be handing out invitations during the week to riders that stand out at the other contests.
For more information and a complete schedule of events visit www.wssf.com.