Behind the scenes of the Swedish Afterski Mafia party

How three Swedish civil engineering students came to Whistler for a ski season, but wound up local rock stars

Michelle Evans is standing in a lineup of at least 100 people snaking around the plaza in front of Cinnamon Bear.

It’s 3 p.m. on Wednesday (April 15) and this crowd is ready to party.

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“This sounds really ridiculous, but I had booked a flight back in January to go home on the 13th,” Evans said. “I actually cancelled my flight and moved it to tomorrow so I could come to this.”

She’s not alone in her enthusiasm. In recent weeks Whistlerites have been clamouring to snag passes to this weekly free event featuring a new band called the Swedish Afterski Mafia. It reached a fever pitch last Wednesday for the final show of the season with Tim Koshul, food and beverage manager at Hilton Whistler Resort, fielding over 300 requests from people hoping to get on the list.

“I’ve been here for 10 years,” Koshul said. “I’ve had friends come to this party that have been here for 30 and they put this party up against anything they’ve ever seen from The Boot days to whatever. That’s pretty good company to be in for some of the craziness I’ve heard in this town.”

The men behind the madness? Magnus Bergqvist, Johan Widlund and Adam Holmer, three Swedish civil engineering students who came to spend a ski season in Whistler.

While the lineup grows outside, the trio sits inside the hotel restaurant eating a quick lunch before their last gig. They’re set to leave to Hawaii on Sunday (April 19) before returning home to resume their studies.

“It’s been crazy for sure,” said Holmer. “I would claim we invented the crowd surfing in Whistler. If you write something I’d like you to put down we’re the current holder of all-time high crowd surfing with 48 people in three hours.”

The Swedish après, as it came to be known, started humbly. The group was missing “Euro-après” in which skiers and snowboarders party harder — and earlier — than in North America. Though they had never played music as a band before Holmer approached Koshul about hosting a daytime party at the Hilton. “It had been in my head because I have a Swedish wife, I’ve been wanting to do a Swedish after ski like in Scandinavia because they’re crazy and Swedes are crazy,” Koshul said. “But every season I’d ask around — no one knew a Swedish DJ. No one knew a Swedish band.”

He said, “yes” to Holmer almost immediately and the first show took place shortly after inside the hotel. “We had 40 friends that went insane in front of the stage,” said Holmer. “We have them to thank because people saw how crazy they were. They were the ones partying.”

But word travelled quickly. The crew started out by DJing wacky songs like “The Chicken Dance” before hopping on their instruments and playing Swedish songs that the crowd eventually devoted to memory, swapping their instruments and capping the night off with some house music. “I think we’re the only DJs in Whistler who try not to look cool and go crazy,” Holmer said. “I think people got very comfortable. You can be however you want in here and we make them feel the same way.”

In February, the show moved to the outdoor courtyard. “I think by the fourth week, the place was packed and people started lining up outside,” said Widlund.

In a town where so many parties and events are meticulously planned and organized months in advance, there was something appealing about an under-the-radar show that grew organically and almost strictly by word-of-mouth. It felt spontaneous, like partiers were let in on a secret — only by the end, a lot of people were in on it.

“It’s hard to grasp,” said Bergquist. “In the last few weeks it’s been so big. Every store I go into everyone is mentioning it. People I never met are just like super nice.”

Added Widlund, “It’s going to be hard to explain to people back home.”

While the trio came here to ski, in the end they were grateful for a less-than-stellar snow season. “It was really shitty conditions in terms of snow,” said Bergquist. “If we hadn’t had the time maybe we wouldn’t have put as much effort into it and it wouldn’t have turned out so good. In one way, it was beneficial for us with the snow conditions.”

The temporary rock stars are en route back to Sweden, but Koshul said their legacy will live on. “We’ll be doing it next year,” he said. “I’m already working with these guys to secure some entertainment with people they may know… It’s been very successful. I commend these guys for their hard work and my staff and the hotel for letting me do this. It’s been an amazing ride.”

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