WSSF beefs up skiing side of festival By Rahoul Ghose HG Magazine While April's fifth annual Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival will again feature several high profile riding events, this year organizers have made a number of additions to the competitive calendar to better reflect the recent resurgence in cutting-edge ski disciplines. "In the past there's been a strong snowboarding focus on the festival, just because of the way the industry has been going over the last few years," said WSSF Chairman and RCG Managing Director Doug Perry, pointing to past events such as the Westbeach Classic, the Kokanee BoarderCross Grand Nationals, and this year's high profile addition — the Sims Invitational World Snowboarding Championship. "This year we decided one thing we wanted to do was put the 'ski' back into the World Ski & Snowboard Festival, especially with the renewed interest in skiing, and some of the incredible athletes that call Whistler home. So we have just unveiled a new event called the World Skiing Invitational, featuring a skier-cross and Big Air ski competition." Perry said the festival, April 14 to 23, will host two sets of elite competitions, with skiing events staged on the first weekend, April 14-16, and riding events centred around the second weekend. The Air Canada Whistler Cup will again kick off the festival April 14, with three days of skiing competition in what is widely considered the World Championships of juvenile (11 to 14-year-olds) ski racing. The World Invitational Skiing Competition, boasting a $50,000 prize purse, is set for April 15 and 16. The two days of competition will be included in a television broadcasting deal signed with the USA Network, which also features syndication in 104 countries worldwide, Perry said. "We chose the disciplines after very carefully watching and reviewing the X-Games and the Gravity Games, which are the two largest television properties in skiing today," he said. "And when you look at all the elite athletic events from skiing and snowboarding this year, together with the incredible prize money, it puts the WSSF in the same league as the X-Games and Gravity Games." However, Perry is also quick to point out how the festival differs from its made-for-television counterparts. "From its inception in 1996, the WSSF was designed for both the community and its visitors, as opposed to being designed solely as a television event. "Now, we have the best of both worlds: great spectator events, and excellent television distribution, while still keeping a grassroots feel. And as we reach for new heights in the athletic competitions, we’ll never lose sight of the community based events." In addition to past favourites such as Whistler’s annual dog parade, Steve Podborski’s DV8 fund-raising event, the Lifty Olympics and the Ski Patrol Challenge, the WSSF will host two kids’ days this year with programs and entertainment specifically for children. Music will also be a large part of the WSSF with two free outdoor concerts scheduled every day throughout the 10-day festival. While a headlining act is yet to be confirmed, much of the concert series ‘Uncut, by Timberline’ will feature up-and-coming acts, such as Vancouver’s Nickelback, as in years previous. Ultimately, Perry said the festival has grown to the point where it has become an icon on the ski and snowboard industry calendar, a must-attend event for athletes and industry types alike. This year the resort will be hosting the Canadian Ski Council’s Snow Industry Symposium, while WSSF 2001 has already confirmed an International Mountain Sports Instructors’ Association conference with more than 1,500 delegates. For more WSSF details, and an up-to-date calendar of events, check out the festival’s official website at www.wssf.com.