WSSF was nearly twenty years of fun . Although the ski season in Whistler may not have been the most desirable for locals , Whistler survived the drought of no snow, and in a way, everyone probably even appreciated a good grand finale party, even more because of it. The last 20 years really did seem to breeze by rather suddenly as I realized we have had wssf now for such a length of time.
It seems just like yesterday when the first World Ski and Snowboard festival took place with epic events like “The Couloir Extreme Ski Race “ , Big Air events , Big Concerts and film and photography showdowns , among a myriad of day and night activities in the village.Yes, nostalgia is fun to observe sometimes in places like Whistler. WSSF made me chuckle again. I reminisced at memories of Sylvain Saundans face when he came to Whis and saw his name used everywhere from Salomon, Air Canada to t shirts and coffee cups. Some ski pat-rollers named the run after him and it kinda stayed named The Saudan Couloir. We brought Mr Saudan to BCin 1990, to film REEL RADICAL and a shoot on Mt Waddington. Then, 9 years later the good folks at Blackcomb forgot they never contacted Saudan about the name , so he was a bit upset when he came and saw it everywhere, especially used by The Corporate Sponsors behind the race and event. So, they quickly changed the name to Couloir Extreme , thinking the problem would go away. Well, it never did. But whats in a name. Everyone still calls WSSF the TELUS Fest even though the sponsor had gone, just like the Saudan Couloir by everyone that remembers.
As in previous years events, the biggest pleasure I derived from WSSF was a chance to see many old friends from Whistler and abroad that attend the event. Last year or 2014 I attended the first Multiplicity event and enjoyed it thoroughly . Therefore I put it at the top of my list as to what to see at the festival this year. Multiplicity is a presentation by several high octane adventurous people that share their lifestyle with us through a speaking presentation accompanied by pictures and video clips. The Legendary Feet Banks from Mountainlife Magazine MCd the event rather splendidly. Among the presenters was Will Gadd and with my own preoccupation with paragliding, I really wanted to see his show. I have run into Will several times in my own paragliding forays from the Lumby Air Races, to my own paraglide FLY IN in Hedley BC, or just soaring around Pemberton which is my home now. Will was the keynote speaker or had the longest presentation of about half hour compared to the 15 minute talks by the other Multiplicity participants.
Will Gadd is certainly a character . He is 40+ year old paragliding and ice climbing veteran among many other sports. He has held world paragliding distance record done in Texas and has flown over the Grand Canyon . As far as ice-climbing his most recent claim to fame was climbing the frozen Niagara Falls last winter , as well as some spectacular formations around BC. His presentation was perhaps the most polished of the lot, but after all, he probably has had the most experience in such theatrics. Will certainly motivated us to pursue even the most riskiest of our dreams. His opening film clip MOVE , also enticed us just to move more and get off the couch, right off the start of his talk. I have a rather fond memory of a moment we were all flying together in Lumby BC. The wind was from the back, so takeoff on a paraglider was rather dicy to say the least. We all had to run like crazy with our arms out back, heads down, sort of like chickens, before we took off.This technique has its flaws because if anyone trips, it is your face that hits the dirt first. Somehow we all managed to run it out and launch like crazy, and there were at least a dozen paraglide pilots running off that day. Somehow everyone landed OK and I just remember Will Gadds final words. “ Well , all is good, as everyone still has their teeth “ . I was watching Wills' presentation with my friend Doris Spika when he ended his talk with that shot of a vertical black water hole going down the glacier with no end in sight. Wills plan was to rappel down it and then ice climb out. Doris just turned to me and said " Just make sure tell your friend Will that if he goes down there , mark my words, he will not come out .He might have done some amazing things, that Will Gadd, but please just tell him, not to go down that hole ! " It was certainly an imposing looking hole with a waterfall of melting ice water cascading down it as well. So remember those words from Doris, Will, when time comes to go back to Greenland, I think it was.
Each Multiplicity presenter had a style of their own and differed in some way from the other speakers which made the show so diversified for all walks of life. Here is a short roundup of speakers and their passions.
Kirby Brown differed from Will Gadds bit narcissistic performance with his project in Afghanistan and Iraq , building playgrounds for children . Using playgrounds as a stepping stone, Kirby gave us a unique look at how one act of kindness can not only create so much joy and happiness, but also lead to a healthier life and encourage kids to pursue an education from an entry level started at the playgrounds.
Suz Graham viewed as Multiplicity's The Ace of BASE . We were back into adrenaline sports with a base presentation by Suz. The opening video immediately set the pace as she climbed a high finger like pillar in Utah somewhere only to jump off its incredible topography. Then, she entertained us with a story on how her hair got caught in the rap-ell rope causing a major wait and near disaster . Suz comes from Utah and recently settled in Pemberton. Suz Graham has been called “One of the most accomplished professional freeskiers and BASE jumpers in the world”.
Chris Winter entertained us with some magical mountain biking shots and adventures in his recent global exploits. Winter rips us through epic lines from Morocco, the Swiss and French Alps, Costa Rica, Italy Peru, South Africa, Botswana, Chile, New Zealand, Hawaii and more as he travels with camera and bike.
Tim Emmett impressed us with an incredible ice climb he started with Will Gadd a year before climbing Helmcken Falls BC. He entertained us with various ice climbing and BASE jumping adventures throughout his time on the podium.
David McColm surprised us with his incredible time lapse photography around his home of Whistler and beyond. David made us realize what it takes to spend freezing cold nights all alone on mountain tops by himself crafting his images into final resolve.
Darcy Turenne ; Behind the Lens, In Front of the World , a Squamish resident and originally a pro mountain biker entertained us with stories from her adventure film making images along with captivating stories.
The last Multiplicity presenter Julie Angus rowed a rowboat across the Atlantic and through a hurricane, so most of her presentation dealt with that incredible adventure and the reasons for doing arcane acts of adventure.
Although the 2014 Multiplicity event had some masters of presentations which were much more polished than the presenters of 2015 it is hard to compete on stage with the likes of Wade Davis who was there last year. The final result of Multiplicity was a great success in the end, as we all left feeling inspired and fulfilled at the things people do in their lives. I am sure a great deal of talent was unearthed again as a crowd of 650 , up several hundred from last year, left the Whistler Conference Centre in awe and thinking perhaps about their own project to start the seed with .
The second bigger event I attended during WSSF was the Olympus Photography showdown.LORENZ HOLDER won the $10,000 grand prize while Brian Gaberman, Mattias Fredriksson, Todd Glaser, Reuben Krabbe and Lorenz Holder each took $1500 home as the runners up. Within the first 3- 4 photos I just knew this guy was super talented and was going to win . Nevertheless, the local Reuben Krabbe gave him a great run for the money. But Lorenz really shone with both his technical ability as well as unique composition, lighting and angles taken above all.
Many other events of course were included in this years WSSF which I just did not have time to attend but I must note this one which also impressed me from a film making perspective at the fest over all. That was the winner of a charming fairy tale like film set in an adventure mountain wonderland. It was nice to se that Ben Giesbrecht, Jordan Ettinger and Charles Nasby won the 14th installment of the signature OLYMPUS 72 Hour Filmmaker Showdown with their film, Grandpa’s Treasure Trail. Great work you guys and gals !!
As my main focus was seeing so many old friends , I continued totally enjoying my stay in Whistler before returning to Pemberton and our paragliding monkey community. It was great to be psyched and inspired again, even after my 35 years now around Whistler. Even though the terrain park circus and a lot of the party forays were certainly out of my old school league here, WSSF certainly made me feel younger again.