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Wanderlust embraces change

Yoga and wellness festival, running Aug. 1 to 4, adds locals’ discount for 2019
Wanderlust Whistler is back from Aug. 1 to 4. Photo submitted

Heading into their seventh Whistler festival this year, Wanderlust decided to try something a little different.

“We’ve been working to find ways to make Wanderlust accessible for people of different economic means,” says Sean Hoess, CEO of Wanderlust. “We launched a scholarship program, and there’s always been a volunteer program. We realized we go to all these mountain towns and it’s typically true that permanent locals are not necessarily in a high-income category. We tried to make it more affordable.”

To that end, this year, locals—including residents of Whistler, Squamish, and Pemberton—will have a 20 per cent discount for the yoga, health, and wellness festival from Aug. 1 to 4. On top of that, those age 18 to 25, and students, can receive a 25 per cent discount, while participants under 18 get in for free if their parent or guardian has a ticket.

“We’ve been wanting to get younger people to try it out and have parents feel like it wasn’t hard to bring their kids,” Hoess adds.

Whistler became the only Canadian Wanderlust event this year after organizers decided to fold the festival in Mont Tremblant, Que., citing language barriers and its proximity to their Vermont event.

“We’re up in sales for Whistler (this year)," Hoess says. “Maybe that’s what happened … Obviously, we’re always working on it, but if we were to really crack the code up there, (we could reach) 10,000 people. The village is so big. Some day that would be my dream, to be honest.”

(Currently, they’re at around 4,500 day tickets. It’s hard to calculate unique visits because many people attend multiple days, he adds.)

While organizers tweak the festival offerings every year, each of the four days is jam-packed with yoga classes, outdoor activities—from hikes to runs and HIIT classes—as well as speaker sessions.

One of the biggest changes this year is the opening-day approach on Thursday, Aug. 1.

“We always felt Thursday was the intensive day—longer classes for the hardcore, deep yogis,” Hoess says. “This year we decided to take that in a different direction. It’s now an immersion day. Instead of 100 classes, you sign up for one thing. We have three really cool immersions this year.”

The three day-long sessions include a “deep dive into your healthy centre,” with Annie Carpenter, the creator of SmartFLOW Yoga; “a journey of deep relaxation, self inquiry, meditation and manifestation” with Tracee Stanley; and a session called Clarity, Courage, Truth, Power, with author and podcaster Cheryl Strayed.

“Cheryl Strayed—who wrote [the book] Wild—that session is packed,” Hoess says. “It’s unbelievably successful. It’s a personal development workshop. She’s leading that all day long.”

Annually, the festival responds to new trends in the yoga world and adjusts the schedule accordingly, Hoess says. While North America experienced “peak yoga” a decade ago with yogis focused on the practice, now it’s become part of an overall health and wellness routine.

“That’s been a cultural shift,” he says. “With that, people have become experimental with their yoga practices.”

As a result, organizers have added more fitness classes like HIIT and pilates. They’re also offering wildly varying yoga classes—from AcroYoga to “Hip Hop & Heart” (which centres around the rhythm of hip hop).

“It’s nice to try new things,” Hoess says. “We view Wanderlust as a platform for discovery. ‘Hey, here’s that platform for yoga you’ve always wanted to try.’ You can drop in and try new things—aerial, acro, stand up paddleboard, all these other varieties we have.”

To see the full lineup, or to buy passes or day tickets, visit For the locals' discount, click on “Wander For All program.”