As March ticks away the collective vibe in Whistler begins to shift from deep, untracked pow turns to sunshine, rock & roll, and super-extended après sessions. This all culminates in a year-end rager unlike any other, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival.
Set for April 13-22 “The Festival” is the largest season-ending party in the winter sports world and definitely the cherry on top of every Whistler ski season for the past 17 years. Featuring ten days jam packed full of free concerts, huge contests, massive arts events, all-day après sessions and more than a few no-holds-barred hot tub parties, the WSSF is when the entire snow sports community comes together to celebrate another winter of life and friendship in the mountains. They just happen to do in it a flurry of high-fiving, hedonistic excess that really can’t be matched anywhere on the planet.
For anyone who’s never been…get here. This is the best party of the year in a town known for some pretty decent parties. And to make it easier on you we’ve set up a simple guide on how to wring the most fun and the best times out of the wildest ten days on snow.
The Whistler Insider’s Guide to the
2012 WORLD SKI & SNOWBOARD FESTIVAL
There’s no way a person can do everything and be everywhere, but it’s certainly worth a try. The official events schedule is your new bible (learn it, live it, love it) but also make sure to join the @WSSF Twitter and Official Facebook account to keep on top of all the latest breaking news and events.
As well, don’t be afraid to kick it super-old school and converse with real people. You never know what kinds of useful information can be gleaned from even a short chat with an actual human being.
Go online right now and buy tickets to anything you’re even remotely interested in. Sadly, key events like the Pro Photographer and Filmmaker Showdowns have been sold out for weeks but where there’s a will there’s a way. Tourism Whistler is offering some tickets to the showdowns in their Festival Packages. Probably cheaper than the scalpers actually, plus you get a hotel room to stumble back to after the (guaranteed) party. Volunteering to help out is also a good way to get into events that are already sold out.
Ski and Board Events
The good news is all the ski and snowboard events are going to be stellar. The AFP World Skiing Invitational includes a halfpipe comp, a slopestyle and the mother of all Big Airs. The Shred Show, presented by Monster Energy, also includes a Slopestyle (now an Olympic sport for 2014), a “Big Hip” big air invitational, a Mogul Duel, and the return of the Boarderstyle, which combines the multi-racer starts and rolling curving course of a boardercross with a few jumps, rails and other features from slopestyle. This event was new last year and “it went off like Gangbusters,” Says Monster Energy’s Dano Pendygrasse. “This year we are hoping to add more slopestyle features in the middle of the course as well. We’ll see.”
As well, the Shred Show Slopestyle and Big Hip recently became 5-star TTR events, meaning they are official sanctioned by the Ticket To Ride World Snowboard Tour, as such the big name pro riders have lots to gain by showing up and throwing down. Although it technically happens in the spring, The Shred Show will be the first event counted towards the TTR’s 2012-13 season.
Ten afternoons of free outdoor concerts at the Skiers Plaza (aka the bottom of both gondolas) is just the tip of the WSSF music iceberg. Ten afternoons means ten nights of loud, hard driving good times as well. Most of the big-name acts who come to town for the main stage shows will throw another small-venue show that same night for the Kokanee Freeride Club Series. As well, keep your ear to the ground about exclusive shows by Team Canada DJs, Maseo of De La Soul, The Alchoholics, Trouble Andrew, Mat the Alien and more. Plus every afternoon the Village Square gets loud as local DJs rock the Chevrolet Zone.
To keep things interesting the Garibaldi Lift Company is hosting a radio-powered silent disco (everyone wears headphones tuned to whichever of 3 DJs they prefer, it’s the quietest dance party ever) and the end-of-week-shaker The END is as close to a good old fashioned rave as Whistler gets these days. Get some.
Arts and Culture
Apparently there’s more to life than hucking yourself off a big air or banging heads at a rock show so TWSSF offers a plethora of “artsy fartsy” events for your viewing and intellectual pleasure. The Film and Photo Showdowns are great but one event that really ties it all together is Intersection, new last year. Contestants have a week to produce a ski or snowboard movie without going more than 100km away from Whistler Village. It’s basically a week without sleep for the crews involved but the results, judging by last season’s films, are amazing.
The State of The Art showcases local artists as well as heavy hitters from Vancouver, LA, San Fran scenes (plus it’s free to check out all week long at the Whistler Conference Centre.)
The Fashion Exposed show will include aerialists, dancing and contests this year, and the last night of the fest sees the revival of Whistler’s hottest community theatre event of the season, A Long Time Ago In A Ski Resort Far Far Away.
Those who like to ponder and learn should check out Pecha Kucha at Maxx Fish on April 17 and there truly is no party like Sushi Village’s annual “Above the Lip” freestyle mustache throw down on April 16.
Health and Survival
The official motto of WSSF is “Party in April, sleep in May” and dedicated festival-goers will need some serious stamina to make it through the entire thing unscathed. Follow these tips for a little extra staying power.
- Have a spare liver on standby. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards is rumoured to have made it through the 1970s by routinely having all his blood drained out and replaced via transfusion. This sounds like a bit much but if there is any way you can keep a spare liver on ice for WSSF, that would be good. (Free energy drink samples can creep up on a person mighty quickly.) Everything in moderation is a good mantra to stick with but ask your relatives if anyone has an extra liver or knows of a good cloning lab just in case. (Black Market livers can’t be trusted, avoid at all costs)
- Citrus Fruits. Dr Hunter S Thompson was only a doctor of journalism, not an MD, but he did live in the mountains and certainly knew the importance of a good nutrition in a party environment. Lots of oranges and grapefruits will give you the vitamin C you need to stay healthy over a ten-day festival.
- Water. Whistler has some of the cleanest, tastiest tap water in North America so drink lots of it. Try to offset every one of those free energy drinks with a glass of good old tap water and you’ll be surprised how much better you feel the next morning. (Bottled water is for suckers and people who hate nature so please try to avoid creating the extra waste if you can.)
- Play Safe. Of course the point of it all is to have more fun than you have ever had before but be smart too. Don’t follow random tracks into the backcountry unless you have gear and knowledge. Wear a helmet if you’re gonna hit the big jumps, don’t drink and drive, look before you leap, avoid operating heavy machinery, don’t feed the animals, and please observe the skiers responsibility code at all times: Be aware, ski and ride with care.