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World Ski and Snowboard Festival — beyond the big leagues

From the ashes of the World Technical Skiing Championships, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival has risen to an unsurpassed expression of snowsports culture.

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"It was one of the key strategies behind the evolution of the festival and it worked. It's amazing how important the festival was, and is, in terms of building our reputation as the best place anywhere to ski in April."

The soul of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival was still in gestation during these prologue years, and was in need of some media fanfare to put Whistler on the international radar. The WTSC may not have drawn the crowds that the festival sees today, but it did attract members of ski industry media; many of whom had not been to Whistler before.

"It was such a different era back then," said McSkimming.

"There was really no Internet at the time, your objective was to get picked up (by) magazines and maybe the odd film."

In an era before YouTube, live Internet streaming and ubiquitous POV cameras, ski films were only attempted by those with the skill and know-how.

"Film at that time was Warren Miller and Greg Stump and ... Warren Miller and Greg Stump," recalls McSkimming with a laugh.

"We definitely got picked up by a few of the mags, but I don't remember whether we got into any films or not."

One particular publication that was taking notice was California-based Powder Magazine, though the theme of the WTSC was not considered as a positive direction of the sport by the publication.

"All we did was make fun of it," said Les Anthony, author and former managing editor at Powder.

"Any kind of regimentation, anything that took the freedom out of skiing was not cool in those mid-90s days of the early freeski revolution. We were at a loss to understand what the hell was going on here. But it kind of evolved pretty quickly into much more than that and then it became something that not only did you not deride, you had to be there."

That evolution was the transition of the WTSC into the WSSF in 1996, the revised format gaining fresh media attention.

"I was writing a feature about Whistler in the late '90s and already I was basically affirming that this was a not-to-be missed event," said Anthony.

That 1996 WSSF signified the first joint-event marketing initiative between the two rival mountains, and a significant increase of skier visits and hotel occupancy during its 10-day period, won the support of Whistler's stakeholders. Snowboarding was more popular than ever, with marquis events such as the Westbeach Winter Classic, while skiing was experimenting with fads like snowblading in the form of the Kokanee Big Foot event.