Party On The River: The Whitewater Rodeo Is The Most Fun Event On Water

Whistler has something of a reputation as a ski town that knows how to party. And the après doesn’t stop when the snow melts. Take the Whitewater Rodeo: a locals’ party that combines an epic whitewater rafting trip with one of Whistler’s favourite after-parties. The legendary event is back on June 18. Here’s what you need to know to take on the river.

What to expect

First, carefully select your team of six who can paddle you to victory. Squeeze into your wetsuits and head out onto the Green River, under the watchful eye of your Wedge Rafting Guide. You’ll compete in some ridiculous raft-based games (no one comes out of this looking dignified). And then you’ll paddle like hell to beat the other teams down the river and be crowned Whitewater Rodeo champions.

After all that physical exertion, you’ve earned your first beer of the day. Grab a free beverage and a burger on Whistler’s best patio (Gibbons’ Longhorn’s Grill, obviously) and take some time to recover. The party’s only just starting though. Put the finishing touches to your team costumes before dancing the night away at the exclusive after party at The Hangar, Whistler’s coolest new venue. There’s top DJs, cheap drinks and great prizes.

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If you want to take your experience to the next level, there are some sweet VIP packages available. As well as the VIP treatment all day, you’ll get a private reception at Forged Axe Throwing, where you’ll learn to hurl a hatchet like a pro, while sampling some of Whistler’s best local beer. And you could even snag tickets to the Scandinave Spa and Vallea Lumina to help you recover the next day.

The story of the Whitewater Rodeo

Party on the river. Photo: Coast Mountain Photography

Though you might not have heard of it, the Whitewater Rodeo is renowned among Whistler locals. In fact, it’s marked the beginning of the summer season for over 20 years. Over that time, local legends like the late, great Chili Thom, The Funk Hunters and SkiiTour have all taken to the stage. Hundreds of locals have braved the cold waters of Green Lake, faced the rapids head-on and got creative in a bid to win the coveted “best dressed” award.

Not much has changed at the Whitewater Rodeo over the last two decades, except for one crucial thing. Now, all the fun is for a good cause too. In 2017, Wedge Rafting owner Joey Houssian decided to donate 100% of the proceeds from the event to local charity Zero Ceiling. Other local businesses got behind the event too: Gibbons Whistler, Good Fortune Collective, and from 2019 The Hangar and Forged Axe Throwing. Together, they’ve turned this crazy party into a powerful fundraiser to end youth homelessness.

A party with a heart: Helping end youth homelessness

Whistler is the ultimate adventure playground for outdoor lovers from around the world. But many marginalized young people who grow up nearby are excluded from the life-changing opportunities that the outdoors offer. That’s where Zero Ceiling come in. They transform the lives of young people experiencing homelessness by providing housing, employment, support and, of course, mountain adventure. Every year, they give over 350 young people their first taste of mountain adventure through their day camp Adventure Sessions program. And they give eight young people the work towards independence, by living, working, and playing in Whistler for a whole year.

The Whitewater Rodeo is the perfect excuse to don your wetsuits (and your party shoes) and have a blast for a good cause. Grab your tickets quickly though – this legendary event sells out every year. —ML