WSSF big in '98, bigger in '99
"We drank the town dry" — Perry
By Chris Woodall
The third World Ski & Snowboard Festival was an unqualified success, with many of the popular sporting and entertainment events already slotted into the 1999 festival.
"Everything went off without a hitch and we brought more people to the resort than was predicted," says festival chairman Doug Perry.
"We've had double the number of visitors, and hotel nights increased a lot more than anticipated," Perry says of hotel nights that were predicted to go into the double digits of percent increase for April.
As for the packed houses featuring an incomparable range of entertainment, "basically this town was run dry of Kokanee," Perry says of the beverage company sponsoring many of the athletic and musical endeavours.
The major sporting events will be back next year, including the Air Canada Whistler Cup, Westbeach Big Air, and Kokanee BoarderCross, Perry says.
"They all want to come back next year, April 9-18," Perry says.
One important gauge of success is the keenness of slopeside industries to bring their show to Whistler.
"We had 50 tents in the alpine from Friday to Sunday of the weekends," Perry says. "We've had the highest level of industry participation we've ever seen here."
Among the heavy weights was Salomon, which held its first X-Scream industry week here.
"It's a real strong indicator that Whistler is becoming the place for industry suppliers to show off their new lines," Perry says.
It wasn't all a fizzy pop delight, however, with one cancelled event and some high-handedness by a corporate sponsor.
The Dummy Downhill, set for the last weekend, washed out when shooting a mannequin on skis down the Westbeach Big Air ramp was thought to be too unsafe.
"We'll try again next year," Perry promises.
The folks at CapitalOne MasterCard found themselves up against Whistler Bylaw. In essence, they fought the law... and the law won.
CapitalOne had set up several tents throughout the main village and on the mountains without getting the appropriate approvals from either the municipality or the festival.
What made the crime worse was people staffing the booths actively seeking to sign up pedestrians to a MasterCard.
Whistler's bylaws do not allow sales of anything on its streets or sidewalks. Bylaw officers clamped down on the unwary sponsor by Wednesday, April 15, allowing it to keep the tents in place, but to cease sales.
Bylaw also shut down a busking South American music group who thought they'd simply come up from Vancouver, play a few impromptu sets on village sidewalks and sell a few cassettes.
Those slights aside, Perry says he looks forward to bringing in bigger name musical acts and pumping up the events.
One of those is the Professional Photographers Showdown, featuring lensmen who focus on ski and snowboard action.
Next year will see wider participation for photographers of different ages and accomplishments in a 24-hour shoot-off.
"We'd also like to expand the pro showdown to include photographers of different regions like Europe and Japan," Perry says.
"We can become a place where photographic work by a wide range of photographers can be seen by large players" in the magazine world, Perry says.