WinterStart schedule announced The second annual HSBC Whistler WinterStart Festival, Dec. 3-12, will not be built around the men’s World Cup downhill, as it was last year. The men’s alpine ski event was cancelled for the third consecutive year. Instead, the WinterStart Festival will feature two other regular Whistler events: The Nokia FIS World Cup snowboarding competition Dec. 10-12, and the World Cup freestyle skiing competition Dec. 4-5. The freestyle events normally take place in January on Blackcomb Mountain. Both world-class competitions make up five days of the 10-day festival, and carry a prize purse of $180,000. However, for the first time in four years of World Cup Snowboard competition in Whistler, Blackcomb Mountain will host the Snowboard GS event, said Mark Taylor, organizer of the snowboard events. "This year we decided to run a GS race on Blackcomb rather than a super G on Whistler," Taylor said. "Without the safety systems and snowmaking which in the past have been in place for the men’s alpine ski events on Whistler Mountain, the logistics of running a snowboard super G were not feasible." Additions to this year’s snowsport competitions include a new aerial jump next to the mogul run on Blackcomb Mountain, near the Glacier Creek Lodge. Now all of the freestyle events will be held in one area. All of this is in preparation of the 2001 Freestyle World Championships at Blackcomb. Tim Gayda, freestyle organizer, said he’s pleased this year’s event is part of WinterStart. "Our event usually takes place in January but we’re happy to be part of HSBC Whistler WinterStart this year," Gayda said. "It’s great that World Cup Freestyle will be the season opener for the resort and the festival atmosphere in the village enhances our program." The entertainment for the fledgling festival, considered to be "in its infancy" by organizers the Resort Communications Group, gets better every year. This year’s lineup of live bands should be solidified in the next few weeks. Numerous up-and-coming Canadian bands will be featured in the afternoon on an outdoor stage in the village, and most bands will pick up a club date sometime during the festival. At least a couple of high-profile popular bands should be part of the entertainment this year. Film premieres and extreme adventure snowsport videos are a staple of the festival, and this year’s highlights include the Second Annual Epic Visions Film Premiere Dec. 10, with a double-bill presentation of Realm and Area 51. Doug Perry, managing director of WinterStart, says organizers will take every opportunity to learn how to keep improving the format and will be careful to include as many family events as possible. "The W5 is committed to building the festival over the long term and our vision is to see it grow into a major, international event along the lines of the Calgary Stampede or the Quebec Winter Carnival," Perry said. "It will take time to get there and we encourage the whole community to embrace the festival and feel free to contribute their ideas, which we can promote to early season visitors," he said. "We want WinterStart to be a celebration of the spirit of Whistler and showcase for what the resort has to offer in terms of sport, culture and entertainment."