The Us Festival

I don’t know if the silver, latex-skinned alien on stilts with the bikini-clad, flame-thrower-armed sidekick is going to appear at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival’s Big Air competition this year. But then again, the crowds at the Big Air are getting so large it’s hard to pick out a familiar face.

The eighth annual World Ski and Snowboard Festival gets underway tonight, the prelude to 10 days of parties, riding, images and fun. At least that’s what’s on the schedule.

The WSSF is many things. It’s a celebration of the end of the winter season. It’s also a clever way to extend the season and ensure a little more business for Whistler prior to a couple of slow months until summer really kicks in. In fact, the festival has helped make April one of the best months of the winter season for advance room bookings. That’s no small feat, particularly in a winter that has been tempered by unusual weather patterns, an economy that continues to struggle and uncertainty around the world.

But business is only one part of the festival. Like most things that are this good, it works on several levels. At its heart, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival is a celebration of what Whistler is all about: experimentation, striving to be better, finding inspiration, enjoying and appreciating what we have, and sharing it with others.

Those values sound like something from the Woodstock era, and maybe that’s an appropriate reference point. Both festivals are also about self-discovery, about coming of age, something that people throughout history have gone to the mountains to do.

That doesn’t mean everyone can relate to the hip hop of the Swollen Members or the tricks of the halfpipe riders, for example. But the festival is much more than the latest music and on-hill competitions. It’s also about people who seek more from life. That may be expressed through photography, story telling, music, snowboarding, even showing off your dog. All are aspects of the festival.

The World Ski and Snowboard Festival is what Vancouver needs – it’s what every town needs, an opportunity for people to express who they are. For Whistler it’s the true Us Festival.

But this festival is open to everyone. Those who live here and those who are visiting are invited to share the celebration.

In Whistler, festivals and events seem to come and go as quickly as the snow on Grouse Mountain, and some have about the same depth. The World Ski and Snowboard Festival is different. You can’t ignore it. If you are in Whistler you are part of it. And some part of the festival represents why you are here in the mountains.

The World Ski and Snowboard Festival is supported by business sponsors but it wasn’t imposed on Whistler by a marketing firm seeking exposure for corporate clients. It grew from the fertile mind of founder Doug Perry, who understood mountain culture and what the people of this town were looking for. The success of the festival represents another aspect of what Whistler is about: dreams and opportunities.


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