winterstart wrap 

The inaugural WinterStart festival has been deemed a success, even though the two World Cup ski races planned to kick off the 10-day festival were cancelled. "Overall, the feedback we’re hearing is that WinterStart is a success," said Doug Perry, managing director of the festival. "People and local businesses are telling us they like the festival, and I think everyone’s on board to help grow WinterStart for years to come," Perry added. WinterStart was created by the board of the W5 Whistler Foundation following the cancellation of last year’s World Cup downhill and super G. Organizers were looking to build a festival around the season-opening ski races that would also provide a means to sell sponsorships, something the W5 Foundation couldn’t do with the ski races. Organizers turned to Perry and the successful World Ski and Snowboard Festival he created which runs each April. "People are starting to realize WinterStart isn’t just about the downhill and super G," Perry said. "The snowboarding events made WinterStart a real success. The framework of WinterStart is now established, there’s an infrastructure there. Now we can look at other events and new events to bring into the festival." The W5 Foundation will establish a criteria for events to be included in next year’s WinterStart, which will include flexibility, high impact, recognition of sponsors and some local control of television rights and broadcast. "There are lots of events which fit that criteria," said Perry. "It’s still early, but we’re entertaining some kind of pro-format event featuring legends of skiing or boarding. We’re looking at about four or five things." One of the biggest criticisms of the World Cup circuit is that it has become a European television production, where all races must be broadcast live. That leaves a very narrow window of opportunity to put on races in North America. The Whistler downhill, which was cancelled because of fog, could have been run early on the mornings of Dec. 4, 5 or 6, when the weather was clear. But relay the television feed back to Europe via satellite requires booking specific times with the companies which own the satellites and those times didn’t coincide with Whistler’s clear weather. While the ski races didn’t come off, WinterStart was successful on several other fronts. Perry said hotel room nights sold during WinterStart were higher than at the same period last year. He attributed that increase to a variety of things, including WinterStart and excellent skiing conditions. "WinterStart was part of (the increase in room nights sold), but not all of it." Perry said two of the film nights held during the festival were big successes, with premiers by local filmmakers Greg Stump and Christian Begin doing exceptionally well. Christmas shopping in Whistler was going to be one of the pitches to bring Vancouver and Seattle residents to WinterStart. Perry said there is lots more that can be done on that and other fronts for next year. "We got the ball rolling this year," he said. Among the events at WinterStart was presentation of the second annual Whistler Classic Awards. The awards recognize individuals who have made long-term contributions or who have "made a difference" in Whistler. This year’s recipients were Owen Carney, Maxine Druker, Alex Kleinman and Tamsin Miller.


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