Whistler Pride and Ski Festival brings the party 

Annual event returns Jan. 26 to Feb. 2 at venues around the resort

click to enlarge The Whistler Pride and Ski Festival returns to Whistler from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2. - Photo by Mike Crane/ Tourism Whistler
  • The Whistler Pride and Ski Festival returns to Whistler from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2. Photo by Mike Crane/ Tourism Whistler

The Whistler Pride and Ski Festival is set to bring a little colour to the dreary month of January.

Marking its 29th year in the resort, the festival is running from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2 with skiing and snowboarding, partying, dancing, comedy, and après throughout the week.

Pique caught up with the very busy Sunil Sinha, executive festival director, to talk about what's in store for this year.

Pique: Event-wise, what's new this year?

Sunil Sinha: Our parade route has been changed. We are now taking it right directly to the conference centre. We have Lady Bunny as a marshal of the parade. We're doing a proclamation at the T-dance [after the parade]. It's free to public for the first hour, so anyone from the parade can come in to the conference centre.

We have new talent. For the first time we're bringing a headliner from the U.K., [DJ/producer] Tom Stephan. We also have Nina Flowers, an androgynous DJ ... and we have drag bingo on Friday night, that's new. It's by the Rainbow Foundation of Hope.

Pique: You're scrapping the cover charge at several events this year. Why did you decide to do that?

SS: We totally eliminated a door and coat check charge at the afternoon après. Concept-wise, it's to keep the community together ... We have presenting partners that came in and sponsored the après so we could eliminate the covers. We were able to recover the door charge.

Pique: When you took over running the festival, you questioned whether to continue it, given how much work it is. What ultimately made you decide to carry on with it?

SS: What it is, is someone emailed me to volunteer. He noticed our website wasn't up to date as fast [as it normally is]. He was retired—he had just sold his business. When I met with him he said, 'I've been coming to the festival for four or five years now.' He's 53 or 54 and he had never skied before. When he came to the festival and saw we had the free ski- and snowboard-guiding program, he joined one of the green groups and found people his own age who had never skied before from the LGBT community.

That fear of why he never went brought him into to a community he never knew existed.

[It's] the impact the fest has on people's lives. It's not a big-city event; it's a destination festival ... We've got activities you don't have in the city. And we have been voted—in 2017 and 2018, by the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association—as the No. 1 winter gay destination. That was nice.

Pique: If a local is planning to attend Whistler Pride for the first time, what events would you recommend they prioritize this year?

SS: I want to encourage locals to come to the parade because it is a Whistler Pride Parade. Any city that hosts a parade knows the locals are the energy, the locals are the spirit. I always find that it's a proud moment for Whistler. It is the largest gay ski week festival in the world. It's been the longest-running gay ski week festival the world. There's a lot for Whistler and the resident to be proud.

We [also] have a lot of local Whistler talent ... It's great, again, for locals to support some of the local talent. As well, Snowball is like an EDM party. The comedy night appeals to people. I really would emphasize the parade and pride T-dance; it's a Whistler signature event. The mayor does his proclamation at that event. It's an event where locals can feel so good about what the resort municipality is doing.

On Saturday night, we have Lady Bunny at CABN [at the Aava Hotel] doing a cabaret performance. Our comedy night is usually very popular with locals.

Pique: Where are people coming from this year?

SS: No. 1 is Canada. No. 2 is the U.S. Then we get into U.K., Australia. We're seeing that our average [age] is also coming down. We brought in a youth weekend pass for $99 ... for 25 and under.

Pique: What are you most looking forward to?

SS: Snowball for sure. It's my creative one. Every year we have changed how that event looks. It's never been repeated in terms of décor and design. When people walk in it's never the same as the year before. That's the fun one for me because of the creative concept.

The Whistler Pride and Ski Festival runs from Sunday, Jan. 26, to Sunday, Feb. 2. For more information or tickets, visit whistlerpride.com/.

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