Altitude a success, but organizer looking for more from Whistler 

Despite the fact the recent Altitude 2001 was the best gay ski week to date, organizer Brent Benaschak says there is no guarantee the event will be returning to Whistler next year.

A record 3,000-plus visitors attended the event over the course of the week between Feb. 4 and 11, resulting in many of the organized Altitude parties selling out.

Benaschak, the owner of Out On the Slopes Productions that produces Altitude, says the calibre of the shows and performances were the best yet and he has been receiving plenty of positive feedback from many attendees. Charity fund-raisers during Altitude raised more than $5,000 for Whistler Community Services, plus an additional $1,000 from the ski race.

However, he says a number of issues need resolving to ensure the future viability of Altitude in Whistler.

"We need a better understanding of the group’s needs, such as extended hours for events such as the Snow Ball to meet client expectations in terms of a world-class event," Benaschak said.

The week prior to the event Benaschak publicly threatened to take Altitude out of Whistler, citing growing frustration with Tourism Whistler over issues such as the required 2 a.m. closing of the flagship Snow Ball event. The Snow Ball had gone until 4 a.m. the first seven years of Altitude but closing time was brought forward to 2 a.m. for Altitude 2000 and 2001.

"Fortunately my guests had such a great time this year that they still felt they had value for money, even though most were disappointed that the party finished so soon," Benaschak said.

He said other proposals, such as installing video cameras in the washrooms – which wasn’t followed through on, only serve to further alienate Altitude customers.

"That suggestion came as a complete shock as well as a total invasion of privacy, especially as I have no idea what led to that request," he says. "There was one complaint last year from someone who saw two men kissing which could be a shock for some people, but that hardly warrants that type of proposal."

Benaschak says he is already receiving offers from Whistler establishments keen to host potential Altitude 2002 events, but he is taking a little time out first.

"Most of my team are feeling run down from the sheer hard work of organizing Altitude, so I won’t be looking at dates or venues for some time yet."

He says a key issue affecting all bar venues in Whistler is the problem of capacity.

"Many guests at the après events wanted to know why they had to line up for ages to get in when only half the venue was occupied – all the bars are having this problem and obviously the current system isn’t working."

He says he will be keeping in touch with local bar owners and local authorities over the issue.

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