Spring Rules

Reading Time: 3 minutes

April’s Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival makes it the best time to visit

It may be April, but there was nothing marginal about skiing Whistler this week. The 15cm of dry powder that fell recently was still soft winter snow on northern aspects, the groomers were fast and grippy, and the temperature hovered just below freezing. Only three things gave away the spring date: the total lack of crowds (the longest lift line was two minutes), the creamy corn that appeared around lunchtime on south faces, and the pervasive thrum of the season’s biggest party, known as the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF).

The festival is a spring ritual in Whistler. Now in its 28th year, the original idea was to attract skiers to a traditionally quiet time of the ski season and create some buzz with the ski media. The organizers combined existing and new events into 10 days of competitions involving 22 events and 1,500 athletes.

According to Doug Perry, one of the original organizers, it immediately achieved the latter goal. After the first festival, Perry says, some observers hailed it as “the single most important happening in the ski and snowboard industry.” Over the next 20 years it grew into an international event while diversifying to include arts and culture, with concerts, museum exhibits and photo and film contests. As the festival grew it achieved its second goal, too, putting Whistler on the map as a spring skiing destination.

The festival is now smaller than it used to be, spread over a week, versus the original 10 days, and features fewer athletic competitions. For the visiting skier, it’s a nice change. The ski runs are quieter and the events have more of a local feel to them.

At the 72 Hour Filmmaker Showdown, the packed house seemed to be mostly Whistler residents. The films, all created in 72 hours and within the Whistler area, were creative, entertaining and filled with the fun vibes this mountain town seems to produce.

Other events this year include a photography contest, another film contest, a museum exhibit on snowboarding history, comedy shows and several weekend concerts. On the athletic side, a few long-running contests return: the Saudan Couloir Race Extreme and the classic Slush Cup pond skim offer a good range for different ability levels.  

It should be enough to ramp up the stoke as the weekend approaches. Despite the quiet lift lines, the resort already has a buzz to it.

Even mid-week, the lobby of the Pan Pacific Mountainside hotel was busy with families returning from a powder day on the slopes, heading to the sunny pool deck or heading to stroll through the Village shops, restaurants and bars. Outside, the après scene was in full swing.

As the closest hotel to the Whistler Village lifts, the Pan Pacific is hard to beat for convenience, especially for anyone with little people who don’t like to carry skis very far. Ski lockers just 40 steps from the Excalibur Gondola are located just right for crushed legs at the end of the day (which probably factors into it being named Canada’s Best Ski Hotel for 10 years running by the World Ski Awards).

With a busy weekend of WSSF events and concerts scheduled to close out the festival, there’s little doubt Whistler will be hopping this weekend. And with more snow in the forecast, the April skiing is only going to get better. More than one local said this second week of April had the best coverage of the season. WTF? No, it’s the WSSF. Bring on the spring skiing.

Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival
Pan Pacific Mountainside

Ryan Stuart
To top