Whistler Mayor Ted Nebbeling left for Sierra Nevada, Spain today (Feb. 16) to meet with FIS secretary general Gian-Franco Kasper about finalizing a deal to bring men’s World Cup downhill racing to Whistler annually. "If we can get this consolidation for the next 10 years we can do some exciting things," Nebbeling said earlier this week. The W5 group, which includes the municipality, the resort association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Vancouver Ski Foundation and Whistler Mountain Ski Corp., hopes to secure a long-term commitment from the FIS and Alpine Canada to a December World Cup men’s downhill on Whistler Mountain. The W5 group wants to build a season-opening festival around the event. Eventually it is envisioned the festival will become a major fund-raising event for the whole community. The Vail Valley Foundation, which puts on World Cup races in that resort, is the model for the concept. The Vail Valley Foundation now supports arts groups, offers scholarships and bursaries and has built an arts centre in Vail. "It’s the right time for the FIS to consolidate the World Cup tour," Nebbeling said. "If they can get seven or eight main resorts committed to a plan it will help to get the next generation committed to ski racing." While preliminary discussions with FIS representatives have indicated they support Whistler’s plans and would like to come to Whistler each December, approval from Alpine Canada has been slower in coming. After negotiations over sponsorship and television rights an agreement in principle was reached with Alpine Canada. However, as of Tuesday, the national ski federation had still not signed off on the deal. Nebbeling will be back from Spain on Wednesday. Last week municipal council approved a $10,000 grant-in-aid in principle for the W5 group as an advance against the municipality’s contribution.