With a new spring comes a new rendition of the storied World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF). Now slimmed down to just five-and-a-half days, the organizers have had to pack in the as much mountain sports, arts and music as they can into a limited window. We still get Michael Franti, though. So be ready to wave your hands in the air when you hear him bellow "Whistlerrrrrrrr how you feeeeelin'?!" from the mainstage in Skier's Plaza.
I'll start with my what is probably my favourite audience event of the year in Whistler: Multiplicity. There's a couple of names I recognize on the speaker roster this year. Sisters Izzy and Zoya Lynch have long been a part of showcasing interior British Columbia to the world with their skiing and photography, and I'm curious to see what adventures they've been up to of late. Multiplicity usually includes one or two tales of harrowing endurance expeditions, that should be covered this year by Torontonian Mario Rigby (who crossed Africa from Capetown to Cairo by foot and kayak), and the immeasurable Jon Turk, who at 73-years-young has done more adventuring than most of us put together including circumnavigating Ellesmere Island by sea kayak.
The summaries of the speakers at Multiplicity are impressive enough, but it's when you start to hear the stories that happened along the way that you start shifting uncomfortably in your seat. Polar bears ripping holes in tents, dodging bullets in a government-rebel firefight, that sort of thing. These aren't the experiences explorers go looking for, it just comes with the territory when you start going "full bush" to the most far-flung locations on the planet.
There's such a spectrum of speakers every year at Multiplicity that you never quite know what you're going to see, hear and feel. It's not an eye-candy event by any means, but you'll leave no less inspired. Multiplicity is as mountain culture as it gets. Don't miss it on the evening of April 10.
The WSSF has less of the sport competition events than it did in its heyday, but there are still plenty of events worth getting up the mountain for.
The Saudan Couloir Race Extreme is back for its second year, its deep ruts ready to swallow speed-suit-clad bodies whole. The hundreds of competitors lining the ridge of this iconic Blackcomb run last year cheering on their fellow steel-legged comrades was a sight to be seen. Respect to all those throwing their hats in the ring for Year 2. This is the true Whistler test of gated badassery (sorry, Peak to Valley). Look out for it on Blackcomb on April 13 (April 12 is scheduled as a weather day).
If you're more about hanging out and enjoying the non-competitive vibes, the JP Memorial has a bunch of meetups taking place on the mountains. Locations for some of these gatherings are still being decided, but highlights include a Quarter Pipe Shred Session (April 11, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Blackcomb Terrain Park), an open-ski session on April 10 and a Trivia Night on April 11 at 5 p.m. Check wssf.com for updates on the meeting locations and times.
If you're not feeling the upload or want to stay safely within a stone's throw of a beverage-serving venue, the Big Air event is back to wow your eyeballs with a slew of aerial tricks you probably won't be able to pronounce. Catch it in the afternoons of April 12 and 13.
I'm going to cheat for the last of my Greatest Hits of WSSF and highlight an event taking place on the weekend before on April 6: the Darkside Skimo Race. It's the first time I've seen a ski mountaineering race take place on Whistler Blackcomb property for over a decade (the old schoolers might remember the World Backcountry Freeride Jam as part of the WSSF, circa 2007) so it's pretty exciting to see competitors once again skinning, booting and skiing in a mass start race around the resort. The tentative course (subject to approval by Blackcomb Ski Patrol in the days leading up to the event) starts from Rendezvous, climbs then descends into Jersey Cream Bowl, bootpacks up Purple Haze, descends Pakalolo, climbs up to and over Spanky's Ladder, descends Ruby Bowl, climbs up Blackcomb Glacier ... You get the idea. I haven't had a lot of friends join me in signing up for the Darkside Skimo Race (for obvious reasons) but I'm hoping to see a few more Whistler locals at the start line than last year's event at the Sea to Sky Gondola.
All the best for the fest.
Vince Shuley will be suffering up Blackcomb Mountain for the Darkside Skimo Race and will enjoy taking it easy for the WSSF. For questions, comments or suggestions for The Outsider, email firstname.lastname@example.org or Instagram @whis_vince.