If you’re on the brink of putting away the skis and board for the season and turning thoughts to more spring-like pursuits, then hold off for just 10 more days… The ski season isn’t over until you’ve joined the pilgrimage to Whistler for the resort’s annual spring celebration, the TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival.

A unique fusion of more than 50 free concerts, sophisticated photo, film and literary events, spectacular skiing and snowboarding contests, and the best spring skiing and riding on the planet, the ninth annual TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival kicks off this weekend and delivers 10 days and nights of pure adrenalin and fun.

Known around the world as the epic end to the winter season, the Festival draws huge crowds to check out the free outdoor concerts and the legendary big airs. Excellent deals are available at this time of the year. For special festival package deals visit whistlerblackcomb.com

Staying a couple of nights (at least) allows for the opportunity to check out everything else that’s going on in town. Each night, Kokanee Freeride rocks the bars and clubs with free concerts featuring bands like Gob and Lillix and DJs/MCs such as Curtis Santiago, Vinyl Ritchie and Kyprios. Daily DKNY//JEANS Mainstage action features 39 acts as Canada’s largest outdoor free concert series gets underway with Bif Naked, Gob, Prevail, Moka Only and Sweatshop Union.

The Festival’s arts events – Words & Stories, the Panasonic Pro Photographer Search & Showdown, and the Panasonic Filmmaker Showdown – recognized in many circles as the Sundance Festival of the action sport industry – showcases incredible presentations by some of the world’s most inspiring photographers, filmmakers and writers.

Finally, the foundation of the Festival, the sports pillar, cannot be missed. The world’s best skiers and snowboarders including the likes of Tanner Hall, Jon Olsson, Todd Richards and Maelle Ricker will converge on Whistler to compete in big air, pipe and jib (snowboarding only), and an all-new urban rail session will descend (literally) into the village under the nighttime skies showcasing the future of the sports.

MORE THAN 50 FREE CONCERTS TO TAKE PLACE DURING FESTIVAL WEEK

To what was once a festival that featured only sports competitions, organizers decided to add a new dimension in 1998 -- music. They rolled a concert stage into the heart of Whistler Village, plugged in a wall of amps, and invited a few special guests to play a free outdoor show for the skiers and riders who settled in for Whistler's après patio action. If you were there that year, you would have been one of about 200 people to watch Nickelback and the Matthew Good Band rock the village like never before. It was a defining moment that changed the TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival forever, proving that the rock stars of the stage and the rock stars of sport were destined for each other.

Fast-forward to 2004 and things have changed. The TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival is now host to 50 free concerts, and crowds fill the square each day and the clubs each night to check out the best in hip-hop, rock, pop and soul. Now the largest free outdoor concert series in the country, music was the spark that brought the Festival to life.

ARTS EVENTS TAKE CENTRE STAGE AT FESTIVAL

While the TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival is best known for spectacular concerts and on-snow competitions, it has also earned a reputation for being the epicentre of the arts scene for mountain culture and action sports. Virtually every night of the festival features a tribute to the artists who enrich our lives through film, photography and storytelling.

The event that first blew open the doors off the action-arts scene was the Panasonic Pro Photographer Showdown, the inaugural event held in 1997. No-one had ever asked the best action photographers in the world to choreograph 160 of the greatest shots of their careers into a fast-paced, nine-minute show before, let alone in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 people. And no-one knew it would be such a hit. The first Showdown was so inspiring that it quickly became the hottest ticket in town, and in its second year, the event sold out in a matter of hours. So many photographers from around the world wanted to show their work in the same forum that it spawned a qualifying Search event, now famous for accelerating the careers of its participants. Today, Whistler's photography exposés are regarded as the pre-eminent events of their kind in the world.

The doors of creativity opened wider with the introduction of the Panasonic Filmmaker Showdown in 2002, inviting filmmakers from near and far to shoot and produce short films in Whistler, all in just 72 hours. People arrived at the first gala screening expecting to see films about skiing and snowboarding, but were treated to an eclectic mix of comedic, dramatic and wildly entertaining shorts. The Showdown was an instant success. Each year the films get stronger and more interesting, making the gala a 'don't miss' highlight of the Festival.

In 2003, organizers created a new event to pay tribute to the writers, journalists and storytellers of mountain culture, simply called Words & Stories. For some, Words & Stories is the highlight of the Festival, taking the audience on amazing journeys to the soul of the mountains, and the people who make them their home.

Where does the Festival go from here? It will go as far and wide as the bounds of creativity itself.

Festival Drives the Evolution of Skiing & Snowboarding

Imagine locking a dozen of the world’s best snowboarders in a room for a couple of hours with one question to ponder: “If you could design your own competition – the rules, the format, the judging, the prize money breakdown – what would you do?�

That’s exactly what the TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival organizers did with groups of professional skiers and riders. The opportunity was viewed as a breath of fresh air in the world of heavily governed sports, and their ideas are exactly what spectators will see at the 2004 Ripzone Snowboard Invitational and the World Skiing Invitational in Whistler. The results showed that athletes are evolving faster than the rules, and there are no better architects for the future of their sports than the athletes themselves.

For this week’s competition in Whistler, the athletes wanted a jam-format competition in the superpipe, with multiple riders in the pipe getting as many runs as they can in the allotted time. No problem. They want a head-to-head elimination format in the big air finals. Sure, OK. They wanted a one-jump-winner-take-all “superhit� contest. Why not? And they want the judging panel for the superhit to be the athletes themselves. Consider it done. Who knew it was that easy?

“And one more thing,� the skiers and riders said. “Can we have an urban-style rail competition right in Whistler Village?� Organizers listened, teamed up with McDonald’s to engineer a massive rail in the village, and extended invitations to the world’s top ten skiers and snowboarders to battle it out for $10,000 cash. The McDonald’s Rail Session is scheduled for April 23. No problem.

For more information on Whistler Blackcomb mountains visit whistlerblackcomb.com.


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