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TWSSF to evolve with X Games bid

Local Organizing Committee looks to council for funding

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If Whistler's bid to host the X Games next year is successful, there will be no iconic Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival (TWSSF) topping off the winter season for the first time in 17 years.

Instead, there will be X Fest — taking all the arts and culture of TWSSF and merging it with the sports of X Games for a 10-day winter festival, the likes of which in size and scale have never been seen before.

The TWSSF, which has become the defining Whistler brand anchoring the winter calendar, has been shepherded by Sue Eckersley for more than a decade, and so the thought of it "evolving" into the global machine that is the X Games comes with bittersweet emotions. And yet, it may be because of its very success that the TWSSF can morph into something bigger and more extraordinary than ever imagined.

And X Fest could be here to stay for three years, beginning in 2013.

"It's really a merging of what's best in both worlds," explained Eckersley, of Whistler's bid to host the X Games.

"We determined the best opportunity was to combine the strengths of the TWSSF with the global powerhouse of the X Games brand and with ESPN as a broadcaster."

On Jan. 2, Whistler Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler and Whistler Sport Legacies submitted a bid to the X Games for the April 10-13 timeslot in 2013. But there's one difference. Instead of the four-day event proposed by X Games organizers, Whistler wants to hold a 10-day festival from April 5-14, 2013.

It is designed to take all that's good about TWSSF — the sold-out filmmaker showdown, the pro photographer showdown, the fashion, the music, the all- night dance parties — and top it off with the four days of winter action sport events that have come to define the X Games.

And that could be what tips the scales in Whistler's favour when the winning locations are announced.

Dave Brownlie, chief operating officer of Whistler Blackcomb, described X Fest as:

"A merger of the two most powerful brands in the snow sport industry with one of the best ... ski resorts in the world. It would just be an unmatched event and festival and spectacle."

He presented the bid to council on Tuesday night.

That X Games brand is looking to expand, from two annual events to six — three in the winter, three in the summer. For the past decade, the Winter X Games have been held at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado. It has become the second busiest period after Christmas.

To put its economic impact into perspective, Tourism Whistler's president Barrett Fisher said the Aspen X Games attracted 114,000 in four days in 2011, its hotel rooms 100 per cent occupied.

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