April 11, 2013 Features & Images » Feature Story

Party in April. Sleep in May 

WSSF organizers overcome economic challenges to produce crowd-pleasing festival

click to flip through (7) PHOTO: JOERN ROHDE
  • Photo: Joern Rohde

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Added Barrett Fisher, Tourism Whistler's president and CEO: "The World Ski and Snowboard Festival is a tremendous asset to Whistler.

"Over the years it has evolved into the premier mountain culture festival and has helped to put Whistler on the map. The WSSF is supported by the community and our guests and draws media coverage that helps to raise our overall profile. It has brought business to the resort during what was established as a need period, driving room nights during the shoulder season."

That's a sentiment echoed by Whistler business.

"We have heard from a number of our members that the application of FE&A funding to attract and/or execute various events in Whistler starting last summer has positively impacted their business, particularly in the accommodation and F&B sectors," said Fiona Famulak, Chief Executive Officer for the Whistler Chamber.

"The WSSF is an important event for Whistler, particularly this year when it will help to drive business in April following a very early Easter week. And given the change in the Festival's funding model, it'll be important for all of us to support the 10 days of arts, culture and sporting events.

Eckersley is particularly proud of the 2013 lineup. In recent years, the free concerts series has become one of the main pillars of the festival, drawing crowds and attracting visitors. "I'm stoked," she says. "I think it's the strongest lineup we've ever had. We had more funds than ever because of the (FE&A) dollars. I think there's a great buzz in town about it. A lot of people are like, 'Nas isn't actually coming. It's a rumour.'"

But, indeed, the veteran rapper and actor is on the roster, thanks to the cash injection. Eckersley adds that without the extra money this year the shows would've gone ahead without him and Philly hip-hop act G. Love & Special Sauce. "One hundred per cent there would've been no Nas," she says. "It wouldn't have felt as full or as successful, for sure."

Organizers expected the lineup to look significantly different, though, as they began their search for acts. Peruse the Squamish Valley Music Festival's lineup for an idea of some of the bands they were courting, says Eckersley. They quickly discovered that brand.LIVE, the company that organizes the August festival, has a radius clause on their acts, meaning they can't perform within a certain distance of Squamish for a set amount of time around the event. "You don't think of Squamish (Valley Music Festival) as competition in Whistler, but in this case it definitely hampered our ability to get the lineup done as quickly as we wanted with the bands we wanted," she says.

Speaking of RMI, WSSF

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