Despite the slow start, the past few days have made the WSSF live up to the hype. Virtually everyone important in the ski industry is in Whistler and the athletes are using Blackcomb’s superpipe and Highest Level terrain park to its full potential. Off the hill, Wednesday’s first annual Filmmaker Showdown drew a huge crowd. The results were surprising to me in that almost half of the 7 videos that made the finals didn’t include skiing or snowboarding of any kind. The winning film, The Last Cigarette, has now won a birth in the next Sundance Film Festival. Thursday night brought with it one of the most anticipated events of the festival: the Pro Photographer Showdown, and it didn’t disappoint. Kevin Zacher, Ilja Herb and Ace Kvale all put on great shows but in the end, Nelson BC’s Dave Heath walked away with the Best of Show award. Heath’s presentation was one of the most fluid of the contest and he was able to use a large variety of shots to his advantage in taking home top spot. Friday morning officially kicked off the World Skiing Invitational with practice for the Superpipe competition to be held Saturday afternoon. Being one of the first people on site, I was stunned by the immaculate condition of the pipe. The park crew did an excellent job of getting the venue in the best shape of the year. Once everyone got warmed up the skiers were going off like few had ever seen. Chris Turpin impressed everyone with his huge air-to-fakie’s linked into his signature Horizon while, David Crichton stunned everyone with his massive amplitude, huge flatspins and a new trick that can be best described as a 180 to lincoln loop. Philou and Candide showed up with their usual bag of tricks while those vying for the last 10 spots in Saturday morning’s qualifier worked hard to keep up with the huge amount of talent already in the pipe. Superpipe finals begin Saturday at 12pm with a SuperHit contest to follow. After Friday’s Superpipe practice it was time for the athletes to bring their act to the masses at the base of Whistler mountain for Big Air training. With all the warm temperatures of late a lot of snow has melted and the jump, measured out at an unofficial 16m, is smaller than a lot of the athletes would have liked. A few of the athletes were hesitant to hit the jump with concerns about speed and the kick of the jump, but once Tanner Hall guinea-pigged it everyone seemed to relax and practice got underway. Most of the athletes seemed to be reserving their big tricks for Saturday’s main event but the crowd got a good taste of what’s to come including Crichton’s crossed up switch 1080 tail grabs, Dorion’s 900’s and Candide’s smooth inverts. Saturday is shaping up to be one of the best events of the year with good weather in the forecast and both the big air and superpipe venues in good shape. It’s going to be a busy day but I will try and update the results as soon as I can get the official results and access to a computer. Stay tuned for lots of pics and hopefully some video too!