Last of the Perry brothers 

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, BEGIN IT. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

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Consider the case of the Vancouver Sun. Ten years ago, Whistler stories rarely appeared in that paper past December. "Nobody wants to hear about skiing once Christmas has come and gone," I remember one local editor telling me. But the WSSF soon had them re-thinking their position. This past April, the Sun had a full editorial team camped out at Whistler for the duration of the festival – with articles appearing in the paper on a daily basis. Talk about a turnaround…

But then, the festival has done some amazing growing up in the last 10 years too. The 2006 festival, for example, had over 600 artists involved in one way or another during its 10-day run. That’s right – 600 artists! Before the WSSF, that would have been virtually inconceivable. "On-hill events can only attract so many people," says Perry. "That’s why we decided to branch out and explore other forms of mountain culture. And once we started down that path, we realized just how much entertainment potential there was there." From photography to filmmaking, from painting to storytelling, the WSSF managed to bring it all together under one conceptual roof. And the world beat a path to Whistler’s door to partake in this great cultural feast.

Think I’m exaggerating again? Think again. Over its decade-long run, the festival’s business revenues increased by an average of 37 per cent a year. That means growing more than a third bigger each year for 10 years! Last April’s event delivered a total of $7.5 million in measured media exposure. Perry’s company, W1, even produced a four-part miniseries on the WSSF that was distributed to 122 different countries. Talk about penetration. Talk about effective advertising…

So what happened? How could such an apparently successful partnership – Perry owned 25 per cent, W-B owned 50 per cent and Tourism Whistler controlled the rest – be torn apart so fast? What were they thinking?

While the press release that came out last week sheds very little light on the matter – other than to say that Perry had agreed to sell his interests to his erstwhile partners – insiders point to the "respect" issue again. It was ultimately all about control, they say. It was about who had it and who aspired to it. Rumour has it that W-B was also unhappy with Perry’s increasing focus on off-hill programming. "Cultural events don’t sell lift tickets," is an oft-heard mantra there. But then, that comment begs the question: has on-hill programming at W-B ever really sold lift tickets? Think of the World Snowboarding Championships back in 2005…


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