Whistler World Ski & Snowboard Fest: A Local’s Guide
Guest Blogger: Mikey Nixon
Eight years ago—on my first proper visit to Whistler—I rode into the Village after a day of smashing perfect, mid-April pow turns on Blackcomb Mountain and found myself in the middle of a bumping, open-air Jurassic 5 concert. I unstrapped my board, found my friends, and carried on with what turned out to be such an epic day (and night) that it inspired me to move here.
The World Ski & Snowboard Festival(WSSF) has a storied history of blowing people’s minds and I am certainly one of the blown. The Jurassic 5 show was amazing — as front man Chali 2NA serenaded the crowd a dude in a purple one-piece began dancing on the hillside behind the stage, busting out choreographed dance moves with two enthusiastic babes flanking his either side. The best part? That trio had nothing to do with the concert. That’s just Whistler life.
Those ten days I spent at “The Festival” that year opened my eyes to what this place can offer — steep lines, perfect terrain parks, world class music and a longstanding culture of the most talented athletes and artists I’d ever been exposed to. Now, years later, I still feel a sense of pride and excitement every April when The Festival rolls around. So here’s a 6-part guide for someone who might be experiencing their first World Ski & Snowboard Festival. Hold on tight…
1. Big Airs
The WSSF is the biggest party on snow and there’s no better way to revel in the glory of it all than at the ski and snowboard Big Air Contests that go down at the base of Whistler. The top pros show up for these events, and spectators come from far and wide as the entire Village transforms into a teeming mass of high fives, goggle tans and booming applause as some of the best freestyle shredders on the planet throw down the kind of performances you just don’t see every day.
At the Monster Shred Show Snowboard Big Air a couple years ago, renowned DJ Z-Trip played the whole event, casually providing an epic soundtrack to the action while making sure not to upstage the real stars of the show. Much like the WSSF as a whole, the Big Air contests are an awesome combination of mountain and music culture.
Speaking of culture, one of Canada’s most fascinating humans is going to be at The Festival this year. Wade Davis is one of eight presenters at The Mountain Multiplicity Show which is presented by local publication Mountain Life Magazine and is billed as a “meeting of mountain minds”.
Davis is one of the world’s most notorious anthropologist/ethnobotanists. He’s an author, photographer, and adventurer who often focuses on worldwide indigenous cultures and has been instrumental in bringing ancient medicines into modern day healthcare, often taking the role of lab rat in the remote corners of our planet. His best known work is the 1985 book The Serpent and the Rainbow but he’s written about everything from the jungle trips of Borneo to the Amazon River to Mallory’s attempts on Everest.
And Davis is just one of 8 epic presenters. This is only the second annual Multiplicity Show but it already has a reputation of incredible presenters bringing real stories back from the edge of adventure. This one is sure to provide fodder for many a chat over beers in the next few months.
One of the events I’m stoked to check out on the mountain this year is The Shred Show Boarderstyle, a mash-up of disciplines that promises to be the perfect blend of chaos, carnage and athleticism. Riders run four at a time down a traditional boardercross course that’s peppered with a series of rails, boxes and booters. In previous years spinning off the final jump has been mandatory but this event is unique to Whistler and constantly evolving so it’s definitely going to be worth checking out this year.
4. Arts, Culture, Radness
Eighteen years ago when it began, The Festival relied heavily on its sporting events to wow the crowds. These days the arts and cultural offerings are holding their own. The marquis event, that has the most people fighting and scrounging to get in, is The Pro Photographer Showdown.
Six of the world’s best outdoor and action photographers put together slideshows of their life’s work and show them to a packed audience at the Whistler Conference Centre. This event always has a red carpet feel to it and is one of the few parties that us ski bums will actually dress up for (especially the ladies).
The photos are phenomenal and the Showdown always features photographers from different action sports— so it can be a good way to switch gears and start hyping yourself up for the sports that come with the changing of the seasons.
The Pro Photographer Showdown takes place Thursday April 17, 2014. Tickets sell fast but keep your ears open for giveaway contests leading up to the event.
5. More Art
If you can’t make it to the Photographer Showdown be absolutely sure to attend at least one of the other arts and culture events going down over the 10-day Festival. Whether it’s the 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown, Intersection (the dark horse for coolest event of the Fest) or the Best of the Fest at the end of it all, be sure get tickets to at least one and understand there is more to life in the mountains than just sliding down them on boards.
And no matter what you do, be sure to stop in the Whistler Conference Centre on any day to check out the State of the Art show in the lobby. This is Whistler’s best annual exhibition of the various artistic styles that define and influence our culture.
6. The Riding and the Music
With all the excitement buzzing through the Village the freeriding up on the mountain often gets overlooked but that’s always been the best part for me. I fell in love with Whistler eight years ago while riding during The Festival and I’m still always excited to get up and rip the granite hallways of the high alpine and the old growth forests that sprawl down into the valley. Plus, there’s almost always a few sneaky pow days over the course of The Festival.
And of course, there is the music. WSSF’s Outdoor Concert Series fills the Skiers Plaza with free music and big crowds every single day of the Fest. Which means now, 8 years after that fateful Jurrassic 5 show that sealed the deal for me, I will get a chance to ride straight into the middle of a free De La Soul concert on Saturday April 12, 2014 at the base of the mountain. It just doesn’t get any better than that… until next year.
Get a full list of events and all the accommodation info you need at Whistler.com