Only the best of the best get invites to take part in the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festivals pro contests, and luckily for Whistler that usually includes a strong group of local riders and skiers to cheer on.
There are four main events at this years festival; the Stompede, the Salomon Superpipe, the McDonalds Rail Session and the Playstation Big Air.
This year, for the first time, skiers and snowboarders will compete alongside each other in all of the contests, although theyll be judged and awarded separately.
Stompede April 14-16
The Stompede is a new event, designed to take the best of slopestyle events and present them in a way thats easy for spectators and television cameras to appreciate. Staged outside of the Roundhouse Lodge in a small arena next to the Emerald Chair, skiers and riders will face a series of optional terrain features, from airs to rails, which they will be judged on.
There was no invitational component for the Stompede; it was left open to the public, and response has been overwhelming. At press time there were 62 men and 15 women on the snowboard qualifier list, and 65 men and 10 women in the skier qualifier, not including athletes on the standby list.
The snowboard qualifier is on Friday and the skier qualifier on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. both days. The finals are from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Whistler-Blackcomb and W1, the organizers of the festival, are offering a special $10 spectator ticket with a coupon available at www.whistler2006.com/stompede
There were too many athletes to print, but some names did stick out:
Dennis Bannock A big, fearless rider from Squamish, Bannock is not afraid to go big or hit the stunts that give other riders second thoughts. He currently rides for Ripzone, Atomic, Nixon, Technine, Grenade, 32, Etnies, OGio, and Cashle$$ Inc.
Neil Connolly Connolly was Canadas top big air athlete in the 2004-2005 season, and finished off his year with a win in the World Snowboard Invitational slopestyle. This year he has competed less, but finished third in the Showcase Showdowns inaugural Pipestyle event. Sponsored by Elan Snowboards, Billabong, Smith. Also in the Playstation Big Air.
Dustin Craven From Calgary, 17-year-old Craven is the one rider that everyone is talking about. This season he won a slopestyle in the Calgary Olympic Park, then came to Whistler where he won $10,000 by placing first in the Showcase Showdown. Hes supported by Oakley, Capita, 32, Life Time, Etnies, Wild Flour, and like all Alberta riders, Rude Boys.