Is Whistler good for event producers? 

Basically, it depends on whom you ask

click to enlarge PHOTO BY COURTESY OF RMOW BY JOERN ROHDE - Events success? Whistler has hosted several successful events in the past, but others have flopped. Is Whistler good business for event producers?

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The 2010 Winter Games was a huge success, but much of that had to do with the mechanics of the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and partnerships with Vancouver.

Doug Perry, a 20-year resident of Whistler and founder of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, has been observing Whistler's cultural landscape from afar since moving to Vancouver in 2006 and says Whistler has missed out on a prime opportunity with Jazz On The Mountain at Whistler (JOMAW).

"It's is a huge loss for the resort," says Perry, who now runs W1, an event production company, out of Vancouver after relocating from Whistler. "It had the potential to be not only a permanent annual event, but one with tremendous economic potential. Have you seen the demographic profile of (founder) Arne (Schwisberg)'s audience? There was the potential to fill every restaurant in town and a hell of a lot of hotel rooms with affluent customers each September. It will now go to another resort."

This is hardly the first time the relationship with third party event producers has dissolved over disputes with the RMOW. Following the failure of the KISS concert, the RMOW withdrew a five-year contract with the concert's producers Big Mountain Concert Company. The logistical issues that forced the KISS concert cancellation are still a mystery (this company no longer exists and a spokesperson could not be found by press time for this issue), but the dissolution of that contract mirrored the dissolution of an identical contract between Playground Performances (an earlier incarnation of Big Mountain) and Events Whistler, an events organization embedded within TW to assist third party event producers.

According to Paul Runnals, senior vice president brand.LIVE, producers of LIVE at Squamish who are currently working with the RMOW and Whistler Blackcomb to produce the music component of Kokanee Crankworx 2012, his company has never tried producing an event in Whistler partly because of "the success, or more likely the lack thereof, of the people who have tried."

"There's a culture of 'free' that exists in Whistler, as a result of the World Ski & Snowboard (Festival) and Crankworx and things like that, so the prevailing sense up there is stuff is free. People don't like to pay for it, mostly because they don't have to very much. It's a real obstacle for any promoter, be it the RMOW or otherwise, to try to change that thinking... It's a really tough market to sell tickets in."

The only option, he says, would be the cessation of free events all together, then waiting for the community to work up its appetite to the point where they're willing to pay for concerts.

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