Whistler Pride and Ski Festival celebrates snowy season

Annual festival runs from Jan. 20 to 27 with all-time conditions on mountain and jam-packed schedule in the village

Every year, the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival returns to the mountains—and the village—to inject a little colour into the sometimes-dreary, post-holiday haze of January.

The year, the festival is gearing up to mark its 27th installation with skiing, parties, entertainment and music running at various venues around town from Jan. 20 to 27.

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Pique caught up with Sunil Sinha, executive festival director, by email ahead of the kick off to learn more about what's in store for this year.

PIQUE: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, HOW STOKED ARE YOU THAT THERE'S GOING TO BE EPIC SNOW FOR EVERYONE COMING TO THE FESTIVAL?

Sunil Sinha: Record breaking are two of my favourite words! The resort really is the star of the festival and she's not going to disappoint! I love when guests are smiling while complaining that their legs are jelly from the conditions and then we see them still finding a way to tear up the dancefloor!

PIQUE: IS THERE ANYTHING NEW YOU CAN TELL US ABOUT THIS YEAR?

SS: The biggest change this year is the launch of the festival app. Rather than printed programs, we're making the content mobile so that guests can be notified quickly if there is a change. It also links directly to our ticketing site so that people can purchase tickets and even pre-purchase drink tickets at a discounted price.

Another change this year is that the event that had traditionally been our Friday and Saturday Après is now a full T-dance. T-dances are the gay version of the traditional European Tea-Dance. They are late-day dance parties and they can get pretty wild. We have the incredibly talented Corey Craig from New York on deck for these. His Coreyography podcasts have developed a somewhat fanatical following.

PIQUE: ANY HIGHLIGHTS YOU'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO IN PARTICULAR?

SS: Parade Day is always a highlight. I love seeing the colours pop against the white snow. The route for the march is slightly different this year, ending at the Conference Centre rather than the Olympic rings. We'll be swinging open the doors to the T-Dance when the march arrives and waiving cover for everyone for the first hour! We really want the Friday afternoon to be a community celebration! I'm also looking forward to Sip 'N Dip at Scandinave; last year was the inaugural year for the Tuesday Night spa party and it was a huge hit! Can't wait to go back.

PIQUE: I RECALL SEEING PAM ANN IN THE PAST AS PART OF THE FESTIVAL AND I SEE SHE'S RETURNING AGAIN. DID YOU GET GOOD FEEDBACK ABOUT HER PERFORMANCE?

SS: We received great feedback about Pam Ann. She is also very popular with our community and brings fresh material every time. The lineup for the meet and greet with her at the afterparty was huge and she was wonderful with everyone. We expect the same this year. We also have some incredible talent set to open. Sketch artists and comedians Ryan Steele and Amy Goodmurphy will be bringing The Ryan and Amy show to Whistler for the first time!

PIQUE: THE FESTIVAL HAS LOTS OF DIFFERENT ELEMENTS—SKIING, PARTYING AND SHOWS. WHICH ARE THE MOST POPULAR AND HAS THAT CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?

SS: It depends on whom you ask. There are some who come early in the week just for the skiing (and snowboarding) but get out early before the party crowd arrives. Others come just for the social aspect of the festival. There was a time when the party crowd may have been larger than the sport crowd but these days the focus really is on the mountain.

When the conditions are like they will be this year, people will leave the parties a bit earlier. What matters most to us is that the festival remains balanced and offers a memorable and satisfying experience for everyone.

PIQUE: IT'S ALWAYS INTERESTING TO HEAR WHERE PEOPLE ARE COMING FROM EACH YEAR. WHERE ARE YOU SEEING TICKET SALES?

SS: We are seeing a lot of Americans booking. This probably has a lot to do with a very favourable exchange rate and Vail (Resorts') cross-border marketing and pass programs. There is always interest from Europe, Australia and New Zealand, too. There is a blog in Brazil that profiled us earlier this week and we have had thousands of Brazilians checking out our site. We may get a few last-minute bookings for this year but I'm thinking this could mean an invasion of Brazilians next year!

PIQUE: ANY EVENTS IN PARTICULAR THAT ARE SELLING QUICKLY THAT PEOPLE SHOULD JUMP ON FOR TICKETS?

SS: The Splash pool party is so much fun. It's one of the most popular events and could easily sell out. I recommend people jump on that one. It's also wise to book the Comedy Night tickets sooner than later. There is always a huge rush on tickets in the last week but this year, with the ability to select your seat, you won't want to wait.

We also have a second, smaller comedy show this year on Saturday night at CABN at the Aava Whistler Hotel. Jackie Beat goes Downhill Fast! features iconic drag personae Jackie Beat in a cabaret-style show, with songs, stories and more. This is one people won't want to miss.

PIQUE: ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO ADD?

SS: It is important for us that the guests are having a good time, and that everyone feels safe and welcome. One of the most amazing things about the festival is the sense of camaraderie, that people are connecting with and making friends with like-minded folk from all over the globe.

We're here to celebrate diversity, inclusion and acceptance. We Canadians are very fortunate, and it can be easy to take our liberties for granted, or to forget the struggles that others might be going through. Coming together for an event like Whistler Pride and Ski Festival allows us to cast those struggles aside briefly if we want or to find solidarity—or to do both. At the end of the day ... festivals like this are necessary. They are inspirational to some and give hope to others.

For more on the festival, or to purchase tickets, visit whistlerpride.com.

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