Resorts flatter Whistler By Oona Woods If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then there are a number of ski-resorts in the U.S. making eyes at Whistler. At a presentation to Whistler council last week, Resort Events Group president Doug Perry pointed out that American ski resorts are now planning or staging events like this spring’s BC Tel World Ski and Snowboard Festival because of the festival’s success in Whistler. Perry was invited to present an overview of WSSF activities and intent to council. On the table the same night was the request to re-introduce the Jumbotron (last seen during WinterStart) in the Skier’s Plaza for the duration of this year’s festival, April 9 to 18. When the WSSF first hit the spring slopes three years ago it was the first time anyone had attempted to stage a festival in the mountains after Easter. "The common thinking was that it wouldn’t fly," said Perry. "That people would be too focused on tennis and golf to ski." During last year’s festival Whistler was the busiest ski resort in the world for April. "A comparison in skier visits over the same dates in April, 1997 reflect a dramatic increase of 67 per cent. Similarly, hotel room nights jumped by an impressive 51 per cent," says an REG release. "The festival was in full swing and Vail was virtually a ghost town," explains Perry. "Calls came in from Vail and Aspen asking what we were doing up here. The whole festival concept was taken back to a few boards looking at what they could do to increase spring traffic." This year Vail hosted its own Spring Festival during Vail 99 and Mammoth is also staging the Spring Snowsplash. "There are a few scattered throughout Colorado and Panorama (in B.C.) is holding a big spring initiative." For all of this Perry isn’t worried that Whistler is in any danger of losing its market share. "None of these constitute any real threat. We are innovating constantly and always looking at new ideas. No other resort can touch us for length of season and depth of snow. They have to battle the elements down there. It’s more a matter of letting people know our season is alive and well deep, deep into spring." However, the resort group will not be resting on its laurels. "We’ll always keep an eye over our shoulder to see what’s happening in the industry. Other resorts will be aggressively chasing down business and it’s important to make whatever marketing efforts are necessary." Whistler's fourth annual WSSF is gearing up for another interesting 10 days. With more than 2,500 participating athletes, 30 live bands and 28 events, the festival is still North America's largest winter sports event. BC Tel has recently signed a three-year contract to be title sponsor of the festival.