Winterstart 'suspended' for at least one year 

Winterstart, the annual festival that kicks off the winter season in Whistler, has been suspended, at least for 2002.

Diana Waltmann, information officer for the municipality, said organizers want to revamp the festival but felt they wouldn't be able to do the job properly in the four months prior to December.

"We wanted to take a step back and look at how we can rebuild the event so that it brings the most benefit to our visitors, our businesses, our community and our sponsors," said Bill Barratt, general manager of community services for the municipality.

Winterstart has been jointly staged by the municipality, Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb.

Barratt said the three partners, along with event organizer Maureen Douglas of Mo Ideas, agreed to suspend the festival so they could focus on an improved event in the future that met everyone's needs.

Winterstart started out as a festival built around the World Cup downhill and super G races that were awarded to Whistler in early December of 1996, 1997 and 1998. The races were cancelled due to heavy snowfalls all three years but the festival continued, with an emphasis on family entertainment, activities and Christmas shopping.

World Cup snowboard events continue to be held in Whistler each December and for a couple of years Winterstart bridged the gap between the weekend of the ski races and weekend of the snowboard World Cup.

The World Cup snowboarding will continue this year, from Dec. 12 to 15. Four World Cup events will be held: a parallel GS, a snowboard-cross, a halfpipe and a big air competition. All four events will be held in Blackcomb's terrain park. Many of the athletes who competed in the Salt Lake City Olympics will be here chasing $200,000 in prize money.

Mark Taylor of MASEV Communications, the company that produces the World Cup snowboard events at Whistler, said his event will have elements of festival activities in the village this year, but his target market is the 15-35 age group, rather than the families Winterstart was going after.

He said the cancellation of Winterstart this year won't affect the snowboard World Cup dramatically.

"We existed before Winterstart and we will continue without it," he said.

Taylor said there will be parties in bars and on the hill and there will be a series of concerts, but negotiations with sponsors are continuing so no names have been finalized.

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