Big air contest hopes to be educational as well as entertaining
While the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) takes over Whistler Village for 10 days of winter sports, music and events, a small but dedicated group of hardcore snowmobile enthusiasts will be meeting in the remote Brandywine Bowl to watch history being made pro snowmobiling coming of age with the first World Freestyle Snowmobiling Association (WFSA) competition ever held in Canada.
Organizer Linda Stang originally set out to host a snowmobile themed party at Showcase Snowboards as part of the WSSF festivities, but the idea slowly evolved with the encouragement of local sledders to include a big air Pro Bowl event.
"I got involved when Jay Fentiman, who works at Showcase, brought in some footage of himself riding in the backcountry somewhere. When I saw him hucking this huge air, I knew we had a superstar in our midst. I knew some of our local riders could give some of the big names a run for their money, and it seemed like a good idea to host a big air event to prove it," said Stang.
Local snowmobile groups, including Powder Mountain Snowmobile Club, Black Tusk Snowmobile Club, and the Pemberton Snowmobile Club, plus commercial snowmobile tour operators in the valley, agreed with Stangs assessment of local talent and for the past few months they have been working together to put the April 17 event together.
"It was really a positive experience getting all of these people on board and working together to make this work," says Stang. Because the event takes place on Crown land, the organizers had to get the go-ahead from B.C. Assets and Land corporation. Without the full co-operation of clubs and tour operators, Stang says this may have been impossible.
"There are a few conflicts over backcountry use, but everybody could put their differences off to one side to make this happen. Everybody believes it will be good for raising the profile of snowmobiling in the region. Nobody realizes how huge it is, or how much talent is out there," Stang says.
Event supporters include tenure holder Shawn Wilson of Blackcomb Snowmobiles, Alberto Corsa of Powder Mountain Snowcats (who is building the jump), Dave Browlen of Blackcomb Helicopters (heli-drops and support), Doug Washer of Canadian Snowmobile Adventures, the RCMP, the Whistler Search and Rescue team, the fire department, and all three local snowmobile clubs.
Involved groups are pitching in with everything from transportation to security to first aid for the contest. Heli-drops to the area will be available for $50, and Canadian Snowmobile Adventures is providing a snowcat to bring in local media. Spectators either have to sled themselves to the site, or can pay $25 for a piggy-back to the site. Part of the proceeds will go towards the Darren Proctor Memorial Fund for underprivileged children. Proctor, a pro snowboarder who used snowmobiles to get around in the backcountry, died in an avalanche a year ago.