When Joey Houssian – owner of The Adventure Group (TAG), and one of the Directors of Zero Ceiling – donated the Whitewater Rodeo to Zero Ceiling last year, we knew we were becoming part of a true Whistler institution. 21 years after it begun, the Whitewater Rodeo is going back to its roots this year, with an afterparty on Cougar Mountain we’ll never forget. It’s all been made possible by a whole host of awesome local businesses who have donated their time, resources and money to make this event the best it can be.
On June 20 Wedge Rafting guides will be attempting to steer their crews to victory and get their names in the history books. We’ve teamed up with Gibbons, who will be providing burgers at the Longhorn après to warm you up after a dip in the Green River. Then it is on to Cougar Mountain where TAG and Gibbons will be throwing a bumpin’ after party. You can test your axe-throwing prowess with Forged, grab a tasty meal from Smokeshack and get down to sets from DJ Foxy MoronandSkiiTour. Coast Mountain Photography will be documenting the whole adventure, with photos available to purchase after the event, and all proceeds going to Zero Ceiling. Our friends at Good Fortune Collective created the awesome rodeo paddles you’ve seen around town. If you’re lucky, you might even win one of our awesome prizes from Gibbons, Blackcomb Helicopters and Whistler Cooks.
Sounds like a pretty epic night! It’s taken a lot of hard work and experience to make it this great. With only two weeks to go, we dug into the history of this legendary event to find out more.
The birth of the Whitewater Rodeo
Back in 1997, Whistler and Blackcomb mountains still competed with each other for skiers every winter. There were no bike park, no Olympic legacy, no Peak 2 Peak gondola. But another Whistler institution – the Whitewater Rodeo – was just about the sneak onto the scene.
Whistler River Adventures (WRA) – who have since become part of Wedge Rafting – wanted to give locals in the tourism industry a chance to kick off the summer in style. So they came up with a plan: let them raft the Green River at it’s best, when the snowmelt keeps the water high and fast. They dreamed up the now classic games on Green Lake beforehand, giving partygoers the chance to compete to flip their raft and sumo-wrestle each other into the icy water.
The first Rodeo champions were crowned that night, with their names going down in history on the Golden Paddle. The list of victors features some favourite Whistler establishments: The Crystal, Dubh Linn Gate, 21 Steps and Canadian Wilderness Adventures all have multiple wins to their name. Will any of them take back the crown this year, or is it time for a new champion to claim victory?
Legendary headliners and some seriously great costumes
The Rodeo may have been won, but the fun was far from over. WRA followed up the whitewater adventure with an after party to remember at The Adventure Ranch in Pemberton. Back then, it was headlined year after year by the late, great Chili Thom – the beloved local artist, filmmaker and DJ who sadly passed away in 2016. Over the years, the party has welcomed other local legends like Featurecast, The Funk Hunters, and of course, SkiiTour. Known best for their 80s throwback look, and their aprés spot at the GLC, SkiiTour are sure to make the night when they return to the headline spot this year.
So ever since 1997, every June, there’s always been a Whitewater Rodeo. When The Adventure Group (TAG) bought Whistler River Adventures back in 2009, they knew the Rodeo was a big deal to those in the know. “We knew we wanted to keep the Rodeo going, but we also wanted to make it even better,” says Graham Aldcroft, Director of Operations at TAG. “So we opened it up to more people by moving to our base on Cougar Mountain, just north of Whistler. And we added some more fun games at the party too,”
They did a great job, and the party became infamous among anyone who’s attended. It’s truly a night to remember. Before the summer season really kicks off, it’s a chance for locals to let their hair down, welcome the summer sun and dance the night away under the stars. One of the highlights is always the fancy dress competition – people truly go all out in an effort to win the coveted “Best Dressed” award. Check out some costumes from the past below for inspiration!
Time for the Whitewater Rodeo to give back
For most of its 21 year history, the Rodeo remained a relatively underground event. But last year, when Joey Houssian decided to donate 100% of ticket sales to Zero Ceiling, it was time to spread the word. And seeing as we’re sold out with a week to go, we’re pretty sure locals are still just as stoked as ever. We’ve also added a VIP option for those who want to get even more out of their day. With the chance to zipline into the party, champagne on arrival and special treatment all day, we’re excited to welcome our VIP crews to the rodeo this year: Four Seasons Resort Whistler, LUSH, Rocky Mountain Chocolate and the Onni Group.
If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, we can’t wait to see you there! If not, make sure you save the date for next year: it’s one event you don’t want to miss!