10th WSSF biggest yet 

Concerts, shows, events packed for 10-day festival

The numbers aren’t in yet but it looks like the 10th anniversary of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival is one for the record books.

"This year is way bigger than any other year," said festival spokeswoman Jen Riley.

In the past the 10-day event has drawn about 250,000 people.

"We have had a much steadier full house everyday," said Riley. "The concerts (were) busy and we sold out for both the photographer and filmmaker showdowns, and (Lords of) Dogtown was the hottest ticket in town. Everything sold out. It was amazing."

While no figures are available yet the festival usually injects about $20 million into the Whistler economy.

This year more than 600 artists were brought in by organizer, W1, Whistler’s largest sport and entertainment marketing company. There were 22 events and only two of those were on the snow.

For many the festival is the celebration which marks the end of the season. And along with the fantastic lineup of shows and events it offers an important boost for the resort as it heads into the shoulder season.

"Not only does it bring traffic in the shoulder season but I think it brings a really important way of celebrating arts, music, and sports," said Riley.

Brian Lee had been counting down the months until the World Ski and Snowboard Festival came to Whistler.

"I always try and come because the free concerts and the art shows and stuff are so great, so I’ve been waiting for it," said the 32-year-old Richmond man who was up with some friends last weekend. "But this year is definitely the best yet. The music is epic and I love that skateboarding has become part of the mix."

Lee had to brave huge crowds to see groups like Spearhead, which played last Friday.

Tourism Whistler is also reporting that bookings for rooms are up about 13 per cent over festival time last year.

"The festival is incredibly important to Whistler," said Arlene Schieven, vice-president for marketing for Tourism Whistler. "It is our key event for April… and any time we can get television coverage is a huge benefit for us and that is something that this event is very significant in achieving."

With crowds in the thousands for many of the free outdoor concert events the RCMP, which doubled the officers on duty, was kept busy. Police arrested 27 people mostly for being drunk in a public place during the course of the festival and there were 302 calls for service. But RCMP Cst. Devon Jones said, "It was a successful festival from a policing standpoint."

Like all major events, said Jones, an operations plan was drawn up following meetings with hospitality officials, the municipality, event organizers, and others.

"In my experience all the people that are organizing the event want to give themselves a good name as well," said Jones. "They want the event to be safe as well so it is in their best interest to make sure that our (operations) plan meets their needs and it meets our needs as well."

Conditions were fabulous for those with skiing, boarding and entertainment on their minds.

Whistler-Blackcomb expected weekend numbers to be strong and weekday numbers to be good as well.

"We (were) definitely expecting a very strong weekend," said spokeswoman Christina Moore.

The resort is breathing a huge sigh of relief that a well attended festival and great snow is the message going out to the world.

"The resort is full of media and they are now leaving Whistler with a really favourable opinion of the 2004/05 season which a month ago didn’t exist," said Moore.

"It continues to establish the resort on the cutting edge of mountain culture with arts and sports. It epitomizes everything the resort is about."

Several charities also enjoyed the fruits of the festival. Numbers aren’t available yet said Riley but the beer garden on April 9 was a great success with money going to Zero Ceiling, Whistler Library Fund, WAG, Whistler Gymnastics Club, B.C. Snowboard Association and the Whistler Children’s Learning Centre.

Superstar Justin Timberlake, in Whistler for the festival, also donated $500 US to Zero Ceiling.

The Smirnoff Experience party on Sunday also raised money for charity. Organizers are still working out the value of the donation from ticket sales and at deadline the charity was choosing to remain anonymous.

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