Future of WSSF in Whistler not a sure thing 

Organizers say issues need to be ironed out for the festival to continue

The spotlights have dimmed, the final drumbeat has floated up into the night sky and the crowds have dissipated from their place of worship around the big air jump, yet Whistler still glows in the aftermath of one of its most successful Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festivals.

"Thanks for coming Whistler – see you at the 2002 Festival" – or then again, maybe not.

The organizers behind the annual festival say this year’s 10-day event has definitely been among the best in its six year history, in terms of world class competition, bands, participation and weather. However Doug Perry, the WSSF chairman and managing director of the Resort Communications Group which manages the festival, says it has become increasingly challenging to put together.

He assures that the WSSF will definitely go ahead next year, but says certain issues need to be ironed out to ensure that the festival’s two main drawcard events – the World Snowboarding Championship (WSC) and the World Skiing Invitational (WSI) – remain in Whistler.

"The future of these two events hang in the balance because Whistler is such an expensive and restrictive place to host an event," Perry says. "I just hope the stakeholders in the Whistler community embrace the need to stop events from going to other places."

RGC introduced both events to the festival last year, significantly boosting both the calibre of athletes and the prize pool. RCG owns the WSI and is part owner of the WSC, with Sims Snowboards.

Perry says being presented with a surprise bill by the municipality for renting the village on Monday, April 23 after the festival, for example, makes it tough to justify Whistler as a venue.

"We were never informed about this new bylaw and now we have a $12,000 bill we never anticipated," he says. "As far as I know this resort is the only one in North America that would charge event organizers who are attracting visitors and boosting local businesses."

As the event manager, RCG assumes the financial risk of any unforeseen costs. Prior to receiving the invoice, the company had said budgets were balanced perfectly for 2001. Last year the inaugural WSI resulted in extra costs that were absorbed by RCG. Perry says the municipality has billed out at $1,000 a day, including an extra two days for setup and cleanup.

"Apparently the bylaw was passed last year but I am not aware of any other events that have been charged rental for use of the village," he added.

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