Ahhh, the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival.
For a multitude of reasons it is one of my favourite things about Whistler.
What's not to love about ten days of great free concerts, an abundance of amazing industry movies and photo displays, crazy fashion shows, pooch mania and, of course, all the wacky give-aways, from yoghurt drinks to lip balm?
Rarely a night goes by without my 10-year-old son begging to skip school so he can see the gravity defying Superpipe and Big Air or enjoy the Moguls Mash. Like so many kids in Whistler, young and old, he'll fall asleep imagining that's him slaying the event.
In the past the town has been animated and vibrant. There is an ecstasy that comes with celebrating the culture of snow while getting ready to turn our thoughts to spring and summer.
Visitors and residents alike swarm around in foul weather and fair - the festival a sort of right of passage to the rest of the year.
Some moan about how hard it is to get into local eateries thanks to the crowds, most are thankful they are here.
For in Whistler, as a friend commented to me recently, we don't chat about the weather for small talk, we ask, "how's business?"
So while we are all enjoying the World Ski and Snowboard Festival for what it brings in the way of entertainment there needs to be a very serious understanding of its significance to the resort.
Just on the face of it the often imitated, but never duplicated, festival boosts overnight visitors, injects millions into the local economy and keeps the resort in the spotlight of mountain culture and tourism. It also gives generously to local charities.
In a Pique article last year Sue Eckersley, president of Watermark Communications Inc. said: "For the past three years, roughly 100,000 to 110,000 unique visitors have attended the festival each year and in the last report done by a third party the festival was directly responsible for $30 million in economic impact.
"If you go back to the early years, I will quote a good friend who describes Whistler in the spring by saying, 'Before the festival you could have shot a cannonball down the middle of the village in mid-April without fear of hitting anyone.'
"I think people that have been around for a long time will acknowledge that the festival played a key part in shining a bright light on spring skiing in Whistler, and not just for the 10 days of the festival."
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