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Pared-down WSSF is back—with a ‘grassroots’ feel for 2023

Season-ending festival will be scaled back from past years, but some of its most beloved events are still on the roster
WSSF returns from April 10 to 16—this time, with many of its arts events slated for the Westin (and not the Whistler Conference Centre, as in past events, pictured here).


Gather round, children.

Let us tell you a tale of the Whistler days of yore. Back before COVID, there was a festival, unique to the resort, with sports, photo and film competitions, and music—all to celebrate the end of yet another blissful winter season. It’s tagline: “Party in April, sleep in May.”

OK, we’ll lay off the schtick. You probably remember the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF), but given the time-warping quality of the last three years, here’s a short recap of its recent history: in 2018, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) scaled back the festival from its traditional 10 days to six after Watermark Communications stepped down from organizing the event. That year, WB’s in-house producer, Crankworx Inc., and Gibbons Whistler, co-produced the event.

In 2019, the festival was at risk of folding when Gibbons stepped in to purchase it.

That year, the company hosted a slightly scaled-back version of the season-ending event, but then, of course, 2020 hit.

“We did a virtual [festival] in 2021,” says Brittia Thompson, strategic director with Gibbons Whistler. “Then there hasn’t been one since.”

That is, until now.

WSSF will mark its slow and steady return to the resort calendar from April 10 to 16.

“Because this is the first one since 2019, we really took a more grassroots approach with it,” Thompson says. “We’re not going as big as previous years … We reached out to people who were involved in the past, then we looked to partners in the community who do these events really well.”

On the sports front, that means the return of the Saudan Couloir Race Extreme as well as the Slush Cup. The culture events, meanwhile, include the return of the 72 Hour Filmmaker Showdown—which will be presented and produced by the Whistler Film Festival (WFF) for the first time—Intersection, in which selected filmmakers have 12 days to shoot and edit a winter action sports film, and the Sea to Sky Photo Challenge.

That last event replaces the popular Pro Photographer Showdown, though only slightly. Where the former event brought in photographers from around the world to present a career-spanning slideshow of their work, the updated version will feature exclusively local talent.

“The feedback we got is, ‘We have so much talent here in the Sea to Sky, can we showcase the talent here?’” Thompson says.

As for the filmmaker showdown—in which filmmaking teams shoot, edit, and produce a three-to-five-minute film in just three days—registration is opening soon.

“When we came out and said [the festival] was coming back, we had so many filmmakers—Whistler- and Vancouver-based—reach out wondering when and where registration was opening,” Thompson says.

For its part, WFF says the competition will be similar to previous years, save for one logistical tweak: rather than filmmakers including a mandatory prop (to ensure they shot their film within the 72-hour timeframe), there will be a set three-to-five words of dialogue that must be included.

“The mandatory line of dialogue is going to be randomly chosen from those submitted by the public, so keep your eyes peeled for that contest, as the person who submits the winning line will win tickets to the 72 Hour Filmmaker Showdown,” says Simon Moffatt, marketing manger for the WFF, in an email.

Their goal as producers is to facilitate as much creativity as possible.

“For this year’s showdown, we have aimed to make the format as open as possible so that filmmakers are not too constrained and can bring any story they want to life,” Moffatt says. “Thinking outside of the box is definitely key to this contest and we are really excited to see what the filmmakers produce this year.”

On the music front, while the festival would love to welcome back largescale shows to Skiers’ Plaza like in the past, for now, it’s using local venues already set up for music.

“Definitely there will be some local talent in there, as well as out-of-town talent coming,” she adds. (Keep an eye open for announcements on who’s performing this week or next.)

The other arts events are all slated to take place in the Westin’s ballroom, but with less seating than past years. Those wanting to attend should purchase tickets asap.

“Ticket sales are going really well,” Thompson says. “A lot of people are just going by word of mouth right now, which is great.”

For more info, or to purchase tickets, visit

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