The organizers behind the 2022 Whistler Pride and Ski Festival have a mantra they’ve stuck to throughout the past year or so.
“The thing we keep saying is we’re a small team climbing a very tall mountain,” says Tom Fedechko, communications and creative lead for the festival.
The mountain Fedechko is referring to is one event organizers across the globe have had to climb for nearly two years now: the winding COVID-19 pandemic and its ever-changing health measures, making any kind of long-term planning virtually impossible.
For the core team behind one of North America’s largest and longest-running LGBTQI ski weeks, that has meant completely reimagining an event that has for years been known for its welcoming social atmosphere, packed dance floors, and vibrant nightlife.
“Nothing is paste and repeat. Everything feels like the first time we’re doing it,” says Fedechko of the 2022 program. “We’re really proud of the work we’ve done and what we’ve put together, but we really had to rethink the festival and it’s going to be a different experience this year.”
With a 50-per-cent capacity limit (at least until Jan. 18, but possibly beyond), organizers have trimmed down the schedule and added a number of new events that fit in with the current health restrictions, like Lit! A Night at Vallea Lumina on Jan. 24, which, after a multimedia night walk through the forest, will culminate in an outdoor DJ, cocktails and dancing under the stars.
“It’s a really fun way to capitalize on a great new experience that is available to people that even our returning guests might not have experienced,” Fedechko says.
Also new this year is Snowma-Get-‘em on Jan. 28 at the Whistler Racket Club, where guests can duke it out in a snowball fight, try axe-throwing or take part in a roller disco.
“It’s something that people would think attendees would not necessarily be keen on, but anybody I say it to is like, ‘Yes, please,’” Fedechko says.
Other festival mainstays have been tweaked to fit with health measures, like Spa-Lash!, a reimagined version of Pride’s Splash pool party on Jan. 27 that will be held outdoors at Scandinave Spa instead of its usual home at Meadow Park Sports Centre. Snow Belles on Jan. 28 is another take on a Pride favourite—Snowball, historically the festival’s massive closing party. With COVID uncertainty in the air, several performer contracts are still being finalized, but confirmed is Vancouver’s own Kendall Gender from Season 2 of Canada’s Drag Race. The festival’s grand finale at the Whistler Conference Centre will feature an evening of performances as well as a still-to-be-confirmed comedy headliner.
Guests will also be able to book daily guided ski outings from Jan. 24 to 29, which are free to join with a lift ticket and form the “social core of the festival,” organizers say.
The Pride team was left “heartbroken” after having to cancel last year’s festival, Fedechko says, but a blessing in disguise has been the opportunity to renew connections with longstanding festival partners as well as forge links with new ones.
“We all want to see this week happen, everybody,” Fedechko says. “We’re also equal stakeholders in the success of this festival and it feels incredible to us to have that level of support.”
Whistler Pride and Ski Festival is scheduled for Jan. 23 to 30. The charity ski race is set for Jan. 27 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Blackcomb’s Race Centre. This year’s charitable recipient is Whistler Animals Galore. The signature ski parade and Pride march through Whistler Village will set off from Skier’s Plaza around 3 p.m. on Jan. 28.
For more information and tickets, visit whistlerpride.com. Pre-registration is required for all events.