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A new organization, a new festival and a new mandate are part of a joint effort to bring World Cup ski racing to Whistler annually. Representatives of the municipality, the WRA, Chamber of Commerce, Whistler Mountain and the Vancouver Ski Foundation met at Brew Creek last week and agreed in principle to work towards bringing men’s World Cup downhill and super G races to Whistler each December, starting in 1996. The group, dubbed the W5, wants to build a community-wide winter festival around the ski races, to kick off the winter season in Whistler. The group feels the festival and related events can, in time, turn a profit, which can then be put back into the community. "I'm really optimistic," says Bill McNeney of the Vancouver Ski Foundation. "I think it was really positive." "There's tremendous television exposure hosting a World Cup race at the start of the ski season," says Max Kirkpatrick, the municipality's representative at the meeting. "There were about 30 people around the table at this meeting and everyone wants to make it happen." Kirkpatrick is looking at the possibility of making a lottery part of the festival, similar to the Surrey Memorial Hospital Lottery in which a house is given away. At the meeting the Vancouver Ski Foundation and Whistler Mountain agreed to put up money for further engineering studies, to determine exactly what it will cost to put snowmaking, wiring for television and other infrastructure in place. A business plan had suggested approximately $4 million in snowmaking and other infrastructure was required but the group was able to substantially reduced those costs. The W5 group will form a foundation or society to oversee the festival and administer funds which will be put back into the community. The model being looked at is the Vail Valley Foundation, which was founded in 1981 for the purpose of bringing international ski racing to the Vail Valley. Since then the foundation has successfully spearheaded organizational efforts to host the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships, the 1994 World Mountain Bike Championships and the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships. The foundation annually hosts World Cup ski and mountain bike races and the Bolshoi Ballet Academy at Vail. The Vail Valley Foundation's mandate is to increase the quality of life in the community. The foundation distributes scholarships to local students and grants to local and national non-profit organizations each year and has also contributed to the building of the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. The foundation's assets were in excess of $6 million in 1994, with substantial contributions coming from a Friends of Vail membership program. But while the W5 endorsed the concept last week, there are still many details to be worked out. David Perry, Whistler Mountain's director of marketing, says Franz's run is still the lift company's first choice if it is to install snowmaking to Creekside, but the Dave Murray Downhill course will be considered. "We very much see this as benefiting the community, more than just Whistler Mountain Ski Corp." Perry says. Both Kirkpatrick and fellow councillor Dave Kirk caution the matter has yet to come to council for a vote and neither envision council spending taxpayers money on the festival, although there are other ways the municipality can contribute. Similarly, the board of the WRA has to vote on the matter at the end of the month. McNeney says long-term commitments from Alpine Canada and the International Ski Federation to host the World Cup races still have to be secured, but getting support in principle from the W5 group was necessary before any other commitments could be made. The Vancouver Ski Foundation and Whistler Mountain will be putting on an invitational slalom ski race Dec. 2-3 this year. The Whistler Mountain Ski Classic Slalom will draw many of the top World Cup ski racers.

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