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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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Just as the judging criteria remains relatively unchanged, so remains the judging process. While those chosen to select the winner may have slightly more comfortable seating than the huddled masses, they are no more privy to the photos seen on the night.

"We watch the shows live with everybody else and during the deliberation (the judges) write on a piece of paper who they're voting for and there is either a winner or there isn't. If there is no clear winner there is a process of eliminating whoever is out, voting back on whoever is in then potentially getting into a debate after."

And just how often is a winner chosen unanimously?

"Less and less. It's getting harder because the participants are figuring it out and they're bringing the kind of shows that we're looking for."

Camilla Stoddart from New Zealand was selected as one of five finalists (selected from a pool of 32 entrants) for this year's Pro Photographer Showdown and like her fellow competitors, is feeling a heightened sense of nervous excitement leading up to the night of April 19.

"It's a bit of an unknown how to put together these kind of slide shows," said Stoddart.

"You're not given a very specific brief, you are told what you can and can't do, but at the end of the day you've just got your own personality and your own work to go on. We're all the same, we're going in blind."

What will the World Ski and Snowboard Festival bring in the coming years? At the moment it all hinges on the decision of ESPN on whether Whistler is worthy of the X-Games brand. While a successful bid may bring further commercialization during those 10 days in April, having over 26 hours of live action sports footage broadcast across North America and the world is an opportunity that Whistler cannot ignore. The arts and culture events that played the lead role in defining the TWSSF will remain and continue to grow, regardless of which banner the sporting events are sanctioned under.

"(We're constantly) re-inventing ourselves," said Eckersley.

"But I think what's remained the same is the spirit and the core nature of the festival. That's what makes (it) pretty special."

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