No big air for WSSF 

Snow an issue, but changes were coming anyway

For 10 years the big air contest has been the cornerstone of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, Whistler’s end of season celebration of sports, arts and music.

With crowds of 10,000 or more looking on in recent years, some of the top snowboarders and skiers in the world have flipped and spun off the ramp by the GLC and touched down in Skiers Plaza, while bands and DJs entertained from the festival mainstage.

This year neither the snowboard nor skier big air events will be held during the April 8-17 festival. Instead, invitational slopestyle events will be held.

W1 president Doug Perry, the festival’s creator and manager, acknowledged that some people will be disappointed, but he is confident that this year’s festival will be bigger and better than past years.

The decision was only partly made in response to Whistler’s below average snowpack.

"(The snowpack) was one of the factors we considered in this decision, but it wasn’t ‘the’ factor," said Perry. "For years we’ve trucked in snow for the big air. Historically we haven’t had a lot of snow to work with and it’s been an artificial set up.

"But what’s happening is that the big festival gatherings will stay intact and grow into events on their own incorporating a lot of music. We’re still working on the details… but it’s not like those great nights are going away, those great nights are just going to change."

The master plan for the 10-day festival will be released later this week with a full rundown of festival events and performers.

Popular events like the Filmmaker Showdown and Pro Photographer Showdown will be back, as well as the pro ski and snowboard halfpipe events and rail jam in the village.

According to Perry it was the athletes themselves that requested the slopestyle events when they were polled by organizers. Slopestyle events have been held in the past as part of the festival, but were abandoned because it was difficult to create crowds and cover the events for television.

Slopestyles have become more popular in recent years, however, and Blackcomb’s award-winning terrain park already attracts a lot of attention.

"It’s evolved so much in the last few years, the rider demands and skier demands were overwhelming, and Blackcomb has one of the best parks in the world, so it seemed like a natural thing to do," said Perry.

Another event being added to the festival this year is technically a big air, as well as being a historical event for the Whistler area – the Gelandesprung. The Gelandesprung is a jump where distance matters, and these spring events were hugely popular in Whistler in the 1970s and early 1980s. It will be held on the Ridge Run above the Roundhouse Lodge.

"We’re really excited about this event, it has a lot of history here, a lot of ski legends from all disciplines got into the action, and we’re bringing it back," said Perry.

Another change this year is the fact that Ripzone will no longer be sponsoring the snowboard events. The snowboard component of the contest will go back to one of its original names, the World Snowboard Invitational.

"There’s a lot of cool stuff happening," said Perry. "The urban rail session is back, although we’re moving the location slightly to accommodate a large crowd. The music and entertainment lineup is through the roof this year, and there are a lot of twists and turns being planned. It’s the 10 th anniversary of the festival and we have a lot of things up our sleeves, and people should be prepared for the greatest World Ski and Snowboard Festival yet."


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