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World Ski and Snowboard Festival unveils talent

A Tribe Called Red, DJ Jazzy Jeff to perform during Big Air competitions this year

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Organizers putting together the music lineup for this year's World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) had some hurdles to overcome.

For one, it was just three months ago that Gibbons Whistler and Crankworx Inc. (Whistler Blackcomb's in-house production company) banded together to keep the end-of-season festival alive after Watermark Communications Inc. stepped down last year.

"This year has been a bit of a scramble," says Paul Stoker, who works for Gibbons and led the music bookings. "This year it was, 'OK, you've got a bit of time... what can you do with this?'"

So, they got creative. To help recruit big names, they reached out to Monster Energy who helped them snag Indigenous electronic group A Tribe Called Red as well as Fresh Prince pal DJ Jazzy Jeff to play during the Big Air competitions. "(We said), 'We have the budget for two days, so let's do it around Big Air. We'll have the opening artists, then Big Air — a proper, world-class Big Air — and an artist to close out the night on Friday and Saturday.' It's a bit different this year."

Last Tuesday, March 13, organizers released the bulk of the talent at this year's festival, running from April 10 to 15, which is six days instead of the traditional 11. (Though Stoker adds some surprises are still on the way.)

While there won't be a standalone outdoor music stage this year, musicians, bands and DJs will be performing as part of other events throughout the week. To that end, the Kokanee Freeride Club Series will feature Detroit rock act Electric Six on Tuesday, April 10, at The GLC, Aussie DJ LDRU at Garfinkel's on Wednesday, April 11, and Vancouver party starters Five Alarm Funk at The GLC on Friday, April 13.

For the blowout bash The END, set to take place on Saturday, April 14, you'll find a lineup of DJs, including electronic music producer Mija, as well as U.K. DJs Sinden and Craze. Joining them are resort favourites from the Mountain Magic Tour, including Smalltown DJs, Christian Martin, Mat the Alien, Ardalan and Case of the Mondays.

"It's a long-ish evening, so (all the DJs) will get some good playtime," says Dee Raffo, with WSSF. "It will keep the energy up and switch it up. The idea is to keep people partying all night long. That's how to keep people up and energized."

Meanwhile, organizers have also released the names of talent featured in the festival's art offerings.

Multiplicity, which includes eight adventure personalities sharing their stories, will include mountain bikers Darren Berrecloth and Hans "No Way" Rey, climber John "Largo" Long, diver Jill Heinerth, snowboarder Alex Warburton, skier Johnny Thrash and adventurers Casey Brown and Ted Baird. It takes place on Tuesday, April 10.

That event has come to be a locals' favourite, Raffo says. "Most of the time you think these speakers' lives will be so removed from you because it's extreme sports, but they're still grappling with fear and pushing themselves and everyone can relate to that in some way," she adds.

On top of that, for the first time, Intersection — a ski and snowboard film competition in which six teams have seven days to create a five-to-seven-minute film for a $10,000 prize — will include an all-female crew. Alongside the Cariboo Blondes, who hail from B.C.'s interior, competitors will include reigning local champions, RK Films, Andrew Santos Media, Gapers Gone Wild, Fernie's Burrrlapz and local first-timers Gradestone.

Organizers also released the names of the six photographers competing in the popular Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown. This year, that includes: Canadian Ashley Barker, American Chris Burkard, Grant Gunderson, founder of The Ski Journal, France's Fred Mortagne and wildcard entry Roberto Alegria from Spain. That event is set for Thursday, April 12.

The photographers are all invited, except for the wildcard who was chosen from applications, Raffo explains. "They can come from anywhere," she says. "(Alegria) is a skateboard photographer, so it's more skate and street photography. It will be interesting to see that alongside the ski and surf shots."

Finally, the annual art show at the Whistler Conference Centre will return as Art + Soul for 2018. Formerly called State of the ART, the free exhibit will run throughout the festival and feature work from artists like Taka Sudo, Vanessa Stark, Chad Depner and Sarah Gold. The opening party will take place on Tuesday, April 10 from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

For more information, or to buy tickets for the events, go to wssf.com.

"I think it will be similar to previous years: tickets will sell out fast," Raffo says. "My advice is if you want to go and don't want to be standing, get your tickets."

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