Whistler has long had quiet ties to the celebrated TED conference, but this year it will play a pivotal role in fostering TED's "ideas worth spreading."
This week, as the main TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference kicks off in Vancouver for the first time in its 30-year history, Whistler will host the offshoot TEDActive conference. Already, Vancouver has unfurled the TED flags over its major bridges, welcoming the 1,200 attendees from around the world with more than 65 new speakers and performers, including astronaut Chris Hadfield, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates and Sting, to name a few.
The Whistler event is sold out, with 600 participants taking over the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, March 17-21. The hotel is pulling out all the stops to host a conference that will see attendees come from 65 different countries.
"TEDActive brings together the most active in our TED community," said Kelly Stoetzel, TED's content director. "Generally it's a slightly younger crowd and I would say that it's people right in the middle of doing and achieving in their careers and their lives."
The conference is right up Whistler's alley, an "excellent fit" for the meetings brand Whistler is promoting.
"The TED conference and TEDActive are all about inspirational and innovative thinking, which aligns completely with our meetings brand," said Karen Goodwin, Tourism Whistler's vice president of market development. "The very vibe of Whistler cultivates an environment of innovation and invigoration. Whistler inspires great thinking."
Tourism Whistler's president and CEO Barrett Fisher said TED curator Chris Anderson is optimistic for TED's future in Whistler.
"He anticipates that Whistler will only continue to grow when it comes to being a draw for their delegates," she said.
"TED reflects technology, entrepreneurial thinking, innovation, creativity, and in fact we're seeing more and more groups in this type of genre who are considering Whistler because of the match to the brand."
The Whistler connection isn't much of a stretch; Anderson has long had ties to the resort. In 2000, the Californian-based publisher bought a house here.
The following year, Anderson acquired TED through his non-profit foundation, The Sapling Foundation.
TED is known for its engaging lectures.
Each talk is 18 minutes or less and there are now more than 1,600 TED Talks available for free online that have been viewed more than one billion times worldwide.
This is what Anderson said about TED talks in 2013:
"We're giving someone a new worldview that, 30 years later, might make them think differently, might make them act differently," he said in a video from TEDGlobal 2013. "Sometimes I think a TED Talk is like playing Tetris with the brain. All these ideas are coming in and you're trying to fit them in and slot them so that they are received."
The Vancouver conference also includes talks from tech visionary Nicholas Negroponte, plasma physicist Michel Laberge, geneticist Wendy Chung, and writer and philosopher Jim Holt.
Those talks will be simulcast at TEDActive. Unlike the main stage conference, TEDActive is not a pre-set conference; the attendees get to shape the program, host workshops, leading and proposing inventive activities.
This year there will be an expert coming on board to track how projects, which begin at TED, unfold.
"We're excited to set up a new mechanism for tracking that this year," added Stoetzel.
Chateau gets TED ready
Meanwhile, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler has upgraded its tech capabilities, breaking the speed barrier in by offering 1,000MB/ 1GB wireless Internet connection in advance of TEDActive.
"I believe that makes us the fastest Wi-Fi Internet in town," said Randy Bedard, systems manager at the Chateau. "I don't think anybody else has got the AC standard."
The technology is just two months old.
"The wired days are done," said Bedard.
The hotel has also introduced the ability to create a private wired or Wi-Fi network within the network. This technology gives both large or small groups the ability to have a private connection within their group.
The hotel was planning to do the upgrades in 2015 but that plan was accelerated for the TED conference.
The hotel has also secured two back-to-back tech conferences over 2014-2015.
"Our Wi-Fi now is 1 Gig, so there should be no bottleneck in any of this network, anywhere," said Bedard. "We really have broken the speed barrier."
The upgrades are only possible with the Olympic legacy of fibre-optic cable, put in place to host the 2010 Winter Games.
He added: "Our legacy from the Olympics is fast Internet and it's up to us, systems managers within the valley, to use the partners that we have to use this reward."