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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's different," said McSkimming, after visiting X-Games in Aspen in January.

"They're able to collect all their sporting events together in one small-ish footprint at the base of one of their mountains so it's very concentrated. It's kind of weird — you fly into Aspen and the event venue is right at the end of the runway."

As McSkimming describes, the concept of marrying the already established sporting events at TWSSF with the X-Games brand, and retaining the draw of the arts and culture events, could be a powerful asset to Whistler as a whole.

"Here, if you were to add the X-Games, the energy of the festival would continue to build in and around the village and would be quite a bit bigger I think. However, if it doesn't happen, we've got a great thing going. So we can continue to build and evolve on what we've got and we're in one of those situations where I don't think we can lose."

The bid for Winter X-Games has been submitted and Whistler expects a decision from action sports network ESPN in the next few weeks.

WSSF ­­– A cultural bastion of the arts

With the addition of a free concert series in 1998 came crowds, and with more people there has been an increased demand for entertainment. The key was to cater not just to skiing and snowboarding party animals, but to all those seeking entertainment, regardless of mountain riding ability.

"Eighty per cent (of TWSSF attendees) name the music and arts as the most important factor in them coming to the festival," said Eckersley.

"Even now at this stage you're looking at attendees that are only about 60 per cent skiers and snowboarders, so people who come (that aren't actually going up on the hill) may still get to experience the Big Air (and this year the Big Hip) in the Skier's Plaza. But largely they are hanging out in the village checking out the arts and music."

Eckersley recalls her first year as a volunteer for WSSF in 1999, when event organizers realized that the Village Square was no longer the most suitable venue for the concert series.

"A little band called Nickelback may have had something to do with that," she said.

"(The sound) shook all the windows in the surrounding hotels and the festival had to go and buy flowers for everybody as sort of a 'sorry for rocking your world.'"

Another event that quickly outgrew its venue was the Pro Photographer Showdown, which had its first incarnation in 1997. Pro photographer Eric Berger had recently returned from a media trip to post-revolution Iran with writer Jack Turner on assignment for Transworld Snowboarding Magazine.