Cabin Fever cools to Whistler 

What could have developed into a major summer event for Whistler has been cancelled indefinitely.

Organizers of Cabin Fever, touted as the sister event to Altitude, the resort’s gay and lesbian ski week, pulled out of Whistler just weeks prior to the scheduled July 4 start. Co-ordinator, Dennis MacDonald of Shout Entertainment, cites disagreements with Tourism Whistler as the reason behind relocating the second annual Cabin Fever to Vancouver.

"We spent a great amount of money producing it up there (in Whistler) last year. And last year we felt very let down by Tourism Whistler and they’ve done the same thing again this year," MacDonald said this week.

"We agreed last year that they were going to provide some funding for the entertainment and handle some of the advertising on a co-op basis. Tourism Whistler was originally all over us when we announced we were coming up there but they reneged on all their commitments."

Tourism Whistler has a much different take on the situation. In fact, when contacted by Pique , employees had no idea the event had even been cancelled.

"As far as we knew the event was continuing. We never received any official notice that it had been cancelled," Tourism Whistler President Suzanne Denbak said Wednesday.

Denbak says Cabin Fever did receive monetary support for the 2000 event in the form of media hosting. However, to the best of her knowledge, there were no formal agreements in place for 2001.

MacDonald says Shout Entertainment set matters in motion at the end of January outlining its intentions and requests of Tourism Whistler. After receiving no response, MacDonald says he made the trip to Whistler to personally speak with Tourism Whistler Chairman, Rick Claire. At that time, he says he was reassured by Claire everything would be in order for this summer.

Denbak disputes that claim.

"The first that we heard from Mr. MacDonald (about the 2001 event) was a letter on May 11. Rick Claire in turn passed that letter on to me and we responded to Mr. MacDonald on the fifteenth of June. You can appreciate having received a request for support less than two months before the event is very short notice," explained Denbak.

Tourism Whistler’s budget operates on a calendar year, fixed and approved by its board of directors in November. With no way of generating the substantial amount of money Denbak says Shout Entertainment was requesting, they offered support in kind.

"If you look at some of our key summer collateral, you’ll see Cabin Fever promoted on the collateral…

"We had also offered to assist in liaising with community groups that could arrange presentations for them at property managers’ meetings to see if there was assistance there. We also agreed that we would host qualified media," said Denbak.

In their June 15 letter to MacDonald, Tourism Whistler suggested Shout Entertainment submit a formal request for 2002 funding this fall, before the organization’s budget is set. It seems that will be unnecessary, as MacDonald says Denbak is simply trying to cover her tracks. He adds Cabin Fever has no intention of returning to the resort in the near future as long as it has to deal with Tourism Whistler.

"If we even consider returning to Whistler, it will be fourth on our list, behind Banff, Colorado and Mammoth," MacDonald said. "And there would have to be a change of attitude on the part of Tourism Whistler before we would ever consider bringing entertainment there again. I’ve worked for 15 years with guys like David Perry (former vice president of Sales and Marketing for Whistler-Blackcomb and now the President and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA). I’m happy to bring our business to Colorado. Even though I’m a Vancouverite and I’ve skied Whistler all my life, I have no interest in putting up with this kind of thing," MacDonald stressed.

MacDonald also co-produced Altitude 1999, an event that now draws over 3,000 participants to the resort, and says it also receives very little from Tourism Whistler. The winter event is managed by a different company from Cabin Fever, but Altitude organizers too expressed concerns over the lack of support from Tourism Whistler in 2001. Their complaints, however, focused on hours of operations for key events. Although threats had been made to yank Altitude of out Whistler, Denbak reassures they are already in talks with Out On the Slopes Productions for Altitude 2002.

"We spent almost half a million dollars last year (at Cabin Fever). That’s us alone, not counting what the visitors brought in, and I’ve never had a phone call from Suzanne Denbak," MacDonald said.

"After announcing we were moving to Vancouver, I received a phone call at home from Tourism Vancouver asking how they could help… As outsiders, you look at it and think ‘yeah, you might be rated the number one ski resort in North America, but boy, oh boy, what an arrogant bunch of people’."


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