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Finally, it's time to launch the first big celebration of the season. The official opening ceremonies of Whistler WinterStart take place Friday night at the Skiers Plaza, located at the base of both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. The People's Parade will leave the Town Plaza at 5:30 p.m. and wander its way to the festival mainstage in Skiers Plaza. The bib draw for Saturday’s downhill race takes place at 6 p.m., where the 15 top downhill racers in the world will choose their starting positions. Right after that, the second annual Whistler Classic Awards will be presented to locals who've been recognised for their contribution to the quality of life in Whistler. Four individuals will be honoured. Then, the Street Party gets launched by Whistler's favourite band, She Stole My Beer, who'll be sending the dancing grooves through the Skiers Plaza starting at 6:30. Dress warmly and bring your friends of all ages. By the time your belly starts grumbling on Friday evening the best of local cuisine will be laid out for sampling at the Skiers Plaza. The Taste of Whistler is back for a second year of tasty sensations in the heart of the Village during the kick-off hours of WinterStart. Twenty of Whistler's finest dining establishments will be setting up shop under the shelter of The Food Tent O’ Love, offering mini-versions of their finest menus. With prices between $1 and $5 for dishes that usually run closer to $15, you can easily fill yourself up on a variety of cuisine. Meanwhile, the Whistler Children's Choir will serenade you from the Festival mainstage. Proceeds will help pay for the WinterStart Kids Zone, a gathering spot for creative kids in the Mountain Square that's being offered on both weekends of the festival. The folks WinterStart have yet another trick up their sleeves to entice Vancouverites to make the trip to Whistler in the next 10 days. It's a mini-tour package designed to get new people to try skiing or boarding, and to get skiers and riders to try each other’s sport. The Coca-Cola Discover Skiing or Riding Program gives skier and boarders the chance to make a smooth transition into a new sport. For $149 plus tax, the package includes a return bus trip from Vancouver on Saturday, Dec. 12, a full day of rentals, lift ticket and lesson, apres at the GLC, and double occupancy accommodation with Whistler Chalets on Saturday night. Local pros will give lessons and help people who ski and want to learn to board, or vice versa. The weekend falls at the end of the WinterStart Festival which means it'll be the classic mountain weekend experience, full of great skiing, boarding, and enjoying the Whistler apres scene during its WinterStart best.

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