While the weather might have put a damper on some of the skiing events at the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival (formerly WinterPRIDE), participants had no complaints this year, said CEO and executive producer Dean Nelson.
“We just finished our volunteer wrap-up brunch and we asked that question; ‘What was the mood?’” Nelson said on Sunday (Feb. 1). “Everybody said this year there were no complaints. In previous years we would get complaints about the weather, but everyone knew what they were getting themselves into.”
Still, some ski guides backed out last minute after taking a look at the dismal forecast. “Our guiding numbers are down slightly this year; about 10 of our normal ski guides cancelled because the ski conditions weren’t favourable for them to take time off work,” he said, going on to applaud Whistler Blackcomb for the tough job of grooming. “We worked with our ski guides and Whistler Blackcomb to say, ‘Stay on the groomers and you’ll have a great time. If you go off-piste, you’ll get hurt.’ Whistler Blackcomb had an impossible job to do this week. Kudos to them.”
In the end, there were plenty of indoor events that weren’t affected by weather. “It’s just one of those things. We have to roll with the punches. We aren’t in control over it, so we have diversified our festival programming — offerings that aren’t weather dependent. The show is going to go on regardless of what’s going on outside,” Nelson said.
One of the successes was comedian and actress Margaret Cho’s sold out performance. Whistler Pride received Festival Events and Animation (FE&A) funding for that event. Organizers placed it mid-week, aiming to draw people to the resort early. “We definitely impacted the travel for a lot of our guests,” Nelson said. “People did come up a few days early to take in Margaret Cho. Our goal of increasing mid-week traffic was a success, in my opinion. We haven’t crunched the final numbers, so I’m not exactly sure what that looked like.”
Plenty of locals attended that event, as well as the closing night Snowball, he added. Local businesses in Whistler and Vancouver also donated several prizes, in part to raise money for the Rainbow Refugee organization, which helps people seeking refugee status because of their sexual orientation or HIV status.
“I was really pleased with how the community of Whistler came out and supported Whistler Pride this year,” Nelson said. “(I talked to) so many people who are excited we’re back and people embracing the new branding.”
The Village seemed busier from Jan. 24 – 31, added Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “It’s one of the longest-running festivals in Whistler, if not the longest running,” she said. “Speaking with people at (Margaret Cho) they find Whistler so inclusive. They love the fact that the street banners are the rainbow colours.”
Organizers haven’t yet tallied up the total number of participants, but Nelson expected to have official results for attendance next week. “Overall we did pretty good,” he said. “The vibe and the energy was really good.”