Definitely time for a good party... 

click to enlarge TOURISM WHISTLER / MIKE CRANE - A crowd watches one of the free outdoor concerts in Skier's Plaza during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival.
  • Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane
  • A crowd watches one of the free outdoor concerts in Skier's Plaza during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival.

I ran into an old friend on the weekend. He's an old friend because we've been friends for quite a while. He's an old friend because, well, he's reached an age where euphemisms no longer apply and when, if you're going to lie about your age you're more likely to add a few years rather than shade on the downside.

"How's your season been?" I asked.

"Season's sucked!" Exclamation his.

He quickly countered by offering the number of days he'd been up the mountain — substantial — and just as quickly tempered that by redefining "days" to mean a couple of hours here and there.

"Finally!" Exclamation mine. "Someone who's willing to be honest about what a lousy ski season this has been."

And so it has.

I've grown weary of all the smoke being blown about how good it is, somewhere on the thousands of in-bounds acres. I know it's hard for true believers to admit they may have nagging questions about their faith. And none of us want to take anything away from the heroic efforts mounted by the boys and girls and automated equipment responsible for much of the snow we've been sliding on all season. Ditto the tireless nights put in by groomers who, at times, must have experienced the same moments of hopelessness facing follicly-challenged men trying to camouflage a bald pate with a handful of hair. Comb over what you can; hope not too many notice how skimpy the coverage really is.

If this were as good as it gets... we'd probably still be skiing. Like rubbies drinking Sterno, we'd do whatever we could to feed our monkey. But this season has been more about hope for the future, memories of the past and the indomitable human spirit that can lower the bar to ground level and still think it's an accomplishment to get over it than it is about great skiing.

And just to be perfectly clear, let's review this simple grammar lesson. Skiing is good. The skiing has sucked.

Which is all the more reason to look forward to the next 10 days. Can this really be the 20th World Ski and Snowboard Festival? Was it really so long ago when the Party Dude, the Man with the Plan rolled the dice on a dicey proposition — a party celebrating mountain culture at a time of year mountain culture was best described by a weather-beaten sign saying, "Closed for the season!".

Yeah. It can. It is.

And do we ever need a good party. With so little to celebrate since the first teasing snows of last autumn, we all need a hair-raising good time to salve our disappointments and renew our optimism. Naturally, the hard-workin' folks at Watermark feel our pain and have put together a wailin' good time for us. And just in case you're wondering, yes, WSSF is the pinnacle of Whistler culture and the arts. If you don't think so, check the calendar, you're living in another century.

Of course, it's going to be a little bit different this year. No snow at the base of the mountain kinda put the boots to the Skier's Plaza Big Air we've oohed and aahed at in years past. But fear not. Plans are afoot.

In fact, if big air turns your crank, you get a double shot of love this year. This Saturday, the Gibbons Big Air is going to fly up on Blackcomb in the terrain park. Ought to be called the Bigger Air because the flying is going to be higher than ever.

But what about the party? Oh, you mean the Gibbons Plazapalooza. Saturday night, in the same spot as it's always held, the Big Air will be rerun on the Big Screen. Missed it on the mountain? Catch it at the mainstage. Need more in the way of an enticement? How about this. Swollen Members will be playing the mainstage from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. If you've still got some moves left after that, Mat the Alien will provide the groove from 8:00 'til 10:00 p.m.

Not into reruns? Wow, are you hard to please? OK how about this for a dilemma. Going head to head with Swollen Members Saturday night is the Silence of the Slams. Huh? Roller derby is back, baby. Whistler's own Black Diamond Betties are rematched against last year's losers — the Sea to Sky Sirens from Squamton. Slam, bam, tank you, ma'am.

Don't like dancin' in the plaza? Don't like roller derby? Check for a pulse.

Of course, you don't have to wait until Saturday for WSSF to show you a good time. Things kick off Friday evening with the State of the ART opening party at the conference centre. Showcasing both local and loco artists, SOTA puts the boots to those who talk the arts and culture talk but don't walk the arts and culture walk... or something like that. This town is overflowing with artists and SOTA gives them a chance to show their stuff. It also gives you a chance to buy their stuff, which is pretty much the definition of win-win.

Of course, the usual — and vastly entertaining — suspects flesh out the lineup. Multiplicity on Sunday includes a lineup of amazing people who will regale us with tales of mountain kulture and raise funds for the Spearhead Hut project. The showdowns of filmmakers and pro photographers anchor the week on Wednesday and Thursday.

New this year is Monday evening's Girls Gettin' It Done movie night, promising a chance to see what women making films about snowboarding and skiing might create. I'm suspecting something other than the usual ski porn.

New as well is Tuesday's Whistler Comedy Showdown. Funny local people — as opposed to local funny people — will have five minutes to make us laugh and leave us scratching our heads trying to figure out which one was funniest. It's happening at Buffalo Bills, so don't show up at the conference centre expecting to laugh.

Hmm... what have I missed. Oh yeah, music. On second thought, I'm not even going to tell you what the mainstage lineup is. You wouldn't believe me anyway but needless to say, every single afternoon there will be incredible music filling the plaza. Personally, it's a chance to drive this music that's always playing in my head out and let someone else's music take over for a while.

And have I mentioned a weird rumour of a motocross demo in Skier's Plaza the second Saturday? Didn't think so. Now I have. This I've got to see. You need to see it too. See you there.



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