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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.



April is a month of transition for Whistler. The plentiful snowstorms of March have left a deep snowpack, and the cool alpine temperatures of spring extend the season well beyond that of other resorts. The park riders are in their element with sunshine, slush and soft landings. Those touring inclined are working their way through the spring checklist, ticking boxes on end-of-season goals by climbing summits and descending couloirs.

But the folk of this mountain town are also yearning for the comfort of shorts and the freedom of flip-flops. Feet that have been encased in stiff plastic shells for the past five months are crying out for UV rays, fresh air and sand between the toes — the summer is coming.

There is still one last hurrah before winter in Whistler can be put to rest, the one big party to end all winter parties and cap a stellar season of pow days — and it culminates with the who's who of the ski and snowboard industry making the pilgrimage to Whistler. It's time to get ready for another 10 days of unrelenting excuses to let loose. Watch the world's best free skiers fly through the air for your spectacle, mosh, groove and dance your way through the eclectic line-up of live performing artists, sit back in your chair and enjoy the visual extravaganza of films produced in 72 hours and world-class action sports photography. And above all, at the 2012 Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival (TWSSF) you must party like the world is going to end.

Of humble beginnings

The roots of the TWSSF traces back to Blackcomb Mountain in 1994 in the form of the World Technical Skiing Championships (WTSC). Event organizer Doug Perry had pitched the idea to the then-separate competing companies of Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains to host a series of competitions to crown the world's best all-round skiers, both male and female. As well as the Technical Skiing Championships, 1994 saw race events such as the World Master Alpine Open and the Air Canada Whistler Cup, revered events such as the Westbeach Snowboard Classic and the Lifty Olympics, the not-so classic World Ski Instructors Festival and the legendary "2,500 feet of thigh-burning hell" — the Couloir Extreme Race.

Such a cavalcade of events hosted in the spring-melt month of April would require a sizable mountain venue with the terrain to challenge the world's best skiers and a healthy late-season snowpack. Whistler and Blackcomb resorts had both been looking at ways to boost spring tourism and increasing the effective length of the skiing season. What better way than to host a competition event in April?

"The thinking then was if we could use this as a way to promote and highlight April skiing at Whistler," said Rob McSkimming, VP of business development at Whistler Blackcomb.