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Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Updated: May 10, 3:36 PM ET
WSSF seeking new sponsor

By Colin Bane

The World Ski and Snowboard Festival draws thousands of people to Whistler each spring.

Last week, promoters of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) announced that the Canadian telecommunications company is ending its 13-year title sponsorship of the event, which has a 17-year history in Whistler, British Columbia. The massive end-of-season bash features the Association of Freeskiing Professionals' World Skiing Invitational and the Monster Energy Shred Show, a 5Star TTR World Snowboard Tour event.

The news has raised questions about the future of the festival in an economic landscape where sponsorship changes have led to cancellations and scaled-back versions of some recent events, but Sue Eckerlsey, president of WSSF promoter Watermark Communications, Inc., says such concerns are unfounded and that planning for next year's festival is already well under way.

"Any time there's change, there's opportunity, and we're going to capitalize on that," Eckersley told "There are quite a few conversations going on right now in the search for a new title sponsor. At first there's that step back where you're like, 'Whoa, we've been with these guys for 13 years,' but I think there's a massive opportunity here: Change is good. Right now we're building the new title sponsorship package, which is going out at the end of this week. … It's not going to take us long to find the perfect partner who's going to take us to the next level."

The WSSF has some sturdy and longstanding sponsoring partners to help it make the transition, including Monster Energy -- title sponsor of The Shred Show and the WSSF's Big Air competition -- as well as Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Olympus, and Labatt's Kokanee, the festival's original presenting sponsor.

The AFP and TTR have committed to returning to the festival with their events in 2013, Eckersley says, as have sponsors of many of the festival's signature events, including the Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown and 72-hour Filmmaker Showdown, the Fashion EXPOSED event, and the Intersection action sports filmmaking competition.

"It's going to be what it's always been: The blast at the end of the season," says Eckersley. "The AFP World Championships are coming back, TTR is going to be back, and the multimedia events and concerts all sell out every year and are self-sustaining in terms of ticketing and sponsorship. I think for us this is just the next version of WSSF, which has always been about growth and progression. The show will go on, and I think it will be better than ever in 2013."