By Andrew Mitchell
Although it might seem like the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival is the wrong time to launch a Whistler backcountry festival, the response to last year’s inaugural World Backcountry Freeride Jam exceeded anything the organizers hoped for.
As a result the event is back again this year with more attractions and events. The full list of activities includes a backcountry village with demo tents, parties on Thursday and Friday, Randonee and split board tours, telemark clinics, backcountry safety clinics, a photo exhibition, and a series of races that involve backcountry skills. And that’s over four days, April 19 to 22.
The WBFJ kicks off on Thursday with the North Face and Teton Gravity Research Party at the Cinnamon Bear Bar and Grille, which features footage from Teton Gravity Research’s latest film Anomaly.
The Out of Bounds: Tales from the Backcountry photo exhibition also gets underway on Thursday in the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler, with works by 12 photographers.
The North Face Backcountry Village will go up on Friday, including the Backcountry Demo Days, Scarpa Telemark Clinics, daily Canadian Avalanche Centre and Mountain Equipment Co-op backcountry safety clinics, and the Ozone Power Kit and Escape Route Kite Clinics.
Full details are available online at www.wbfj.ca .
The first event also takes place on Friday, the North Face Whistler WindUp Race. This is basically a skin up from the base of Whistler Mountain to the Roundhouse Lodge, for a total of over 1,200 metres in vertical gain. The race was added as part of International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation regulations, as the Whistler events are designated as an official High Range Classic. Results from the events will be used to pick the Canadian National Ski Mountaineering Team for next season.
Registration is available online, and closes on April 19, 2007 at 4 p.m. The cost is $35 before March 15, and $50 until the deadline.
There will be a mandatory meeting for racers at 7 a.m. in the Carleton Lodge lobby, followed by a gear check. The race starts at 8:30 a.m.
All participants will be eligible to win draw prizes at the awards ceremony, taking place at 4:30 p.m. in the Cinnamon Bear.
The Friday night event is the Escape Route and Dynafit party, also at the Cinnamon Bear. The evening, a fundraiser for the Alpine Club of Canada, will feature several classic ski films never seen in North America that document first descents throughout Europe — starting with a 1911 film shot in Chamonix that is credited as the first ski movie. There are five films altogether, donated to the WBFJ by the Kendal Mountain Film Festival in England.
On Saturday, there are two events. The first is the North Face Dash Inbounds Race, an in-bounds Randonee race geared to all levels of backcountry users. The price is $35 before March 15, and $45 until the online registration closes.
The event should take one to three hours to finish, and will start and finish outside the Roundhouse Lodge. The route will depend on the weather, and there will be a cut-off for recreational skiers.
Again, there is a mandatory meeting the day before from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., followed by a mandatory gear check. Racers will board the Village Gondola at 7:15 a.m. on Saturday, do another gear check at 7:45 a.m., and start the race at 8:30. Awards are at the Cinammon Bear at 4:30 a.m.
The last event, The North Face Spearhead Passage Out-Of-Bounds Race, is geared to more serious backcountry enthusiasts. It starts and finishes with the Dash, but takes place on a 26 km course with an estimated 2,150 metres of elevation gain. The route will take skiers as far as Cowboy ridge before doubling back.
All the details are similar to the Dash, but with a $60 price tag before April 15, and a $75 price tag until registration closes on April 19.
For more information on the WBFJ, and registration for the events, visit www.wbfj.ca.