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TWSSF surpasses expectations for participation

Cultural side of festival boosted by sellouts; increased focus on athletes in next few years



By Andrew Mitchell

Survey results and numbers from hotels are still coming in, but all indicators suggest the 2007 Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival is a bigger late season draw to Whistler than ever before.

“We don’t have all the stats as of yet, and we’re still waiting for Tourism Whistler’s report, but we do know as a certainty that we eclipsed the week before the festival in terms of accommodation and rooms booked, and were booked through the festival as well,” said Sue Eckersley, who wrapped up her first year as managing director for the festival.

“We are still waiting for our survey results to come in from the village to get the overall enjoyment rating for this festival and that kind of information, but the anecdotal evidence we have and what I’ve heard so far is that people are quite pleased with the festival this year, and believe it did a good job of driving visitation, that the resort rocked, and people enjoyed all the events that were going on.”

Interest in festival events was stronger than previous years. All of the ticketed events to the festival sold out with the exception of the fashion show, and that event had just a hundred tickets remaining.

“We’ve never really held an event before where it was completely sold out, and all kinds of people came and lined up anyway to get tickets in case people didn’t show up,” said Eckersley. “We’re excited about the buzz those events are creating and will continue to build on those as a focus of the festival.”

The festival also made an effort this year to expand the number of sports events, adding a second big air contest, incorporating the “If Ullr Was A Girl” contest, and introducing a festival-wide contest that presented the top athlete at the end of the 10 days with a new car. That’s only the beginning of a plan to revitalize the festival’s sporting events, says Eckersley.

“We’re refocusing some of our energy on sporting and athletic events and I think you’ll see the trend increase even more in the next couple of years,” she said. “Over the last few years we’ve focused a lot more on what the athletes want and worked to get the athletes stoked about what we’re doing, and we’ll be looking to do more next year. There will be an increased focus on ensuring the best athletes are here, that the athletes are treated well, and that this is the number one place that the industry wants to be in the spring.