Ullr party hibernates

Annual party won’t return in 2020

One of the first ULLR parties Koric hosted. Photo supplied

After years of kicking off the season with a bang, Sun Peaks’ worst kept secret will take a hiatus.

This year is the last time the Ullr party will take place in its Whitecroft while organizers take a break from the craziness of event planning.

Ullr parties are as ingrained in resorts as slush cups and powder days. The early season parties honour the Norse god of snow with ski and snowboard sacrifices made to bonfires. The better the sacrifices and party, the better the snow, or so the story goes.

Sun Peaks locals have hosted their own Ullr parties for years but a few years after Dom Koric moved to Sun Peaks he hosted one in his backyard in Whitecroft.

A fire and a group of friends made up that year’s Ullr party. Each year it grew, adding speakers, lights, small park features and more to up the ante.

After a couple years of complaints and RCMP attendance the party needed a new home.
Four years ago Koric and Sonya Nasilowski moved the event to her acreage on the outskirts of Whitecroft, away from other homes.

That year they estimate around 80 people came. The 2019 event hosted 470, including volunteers.

The huge increase wasn’t just for fun. The pair decided to make the event a fundraiser for the Sun Peaks Skate Park Foundation (SPSP).

“It just started to grow through word of mouth but we didn’t have enough parking and had to bring in a bus,” Nasilowski said. “We had to sell tickets for the bus to pay for it. We didn’t want any profit so in the first year we said we’d donate any to the Sun Peaks skate park.”

After a few years with shuttles running they decided to take it to the next level and sell tickets.

“People could just skip the gate so we said we should pre-sell tickets,” she said. “After we added buses it was like ‘oh…this is a thing.’”

The first year they donated $1,500. This year they were able to donate $10,000.
Nasilowski said she realized the event had gotten bigger than her and Koric when she would hear people talk about it in the village and not know she was the host.

“It started as a bunch of friends getting together, having some beers, a fire, listening to a playlist and Dom DJ-ing. It was not 100 people dancing, it was one or two.”

Koric also fondly remembered the early days.

“At the end of last year it was a lot of work. It’s like a festival now rather than just a party. A lot of the older locals aren’t really showing up and that says something.”

While the crowd size grew so did the production, to a full stage set up with professional lights and sound brought in. Nasilowski also had to handle logistics like insurance, security and porta potties. They also had help this year from the Sun Peaks Mountain Rescue Society and Emma Christy.

Koric’s past DJ-ing and producing events gave him the experience needed to create the Ullr party as a volunteer. He lined up eight DJs to play throughout this year’s event, from local first timers to one who has played at Shambala Festival.

But the hours put in before and during the event add stress.

“The night of it’s stressful hoping nothing goes wrong. I don’t get to enjoy it nearly as much as I should. There are technical issues, you’re kicking people off the stage. It’s like a mini festival, I’ve been to some festivals that aren’t really as big or as well done.”
Nasilowski echoed Koric’s feelings.

“You don’t get to enjoy it live. The rain this year was a lot, setup was a lot, at the take down and clean up the volunteers didn’t show. Normally we’re really excited for the next year but we just didn’t have those feelings.”

Despite the challenges, Koric said, when he had the chance to play a set it was great.
“At that point I’m just having fun and doing my thing. It’s amazing to see the fireworks over the crowd. It’s really fun to DJ, everyone says that.

“I almost feel like we lost focus of what it was. Before we had an effigy…we’d dance him around and sacrifice him. Everyone’s focused on just partying when you need to appease the snow gods too.”

Nasilowski added it felt good to see the event grow and avoid any major incidents.
“It gives you a good feeling to know that you can have that many people come together and nothing really goes wrong…that there’s that many people and everybody has a good time.”

Nasilowski added they were able to meet their goals and help the SPSP get to a design stage.

Neither could say when or if the legendary party would be resurrected, but both said they can see it carrying on in other forms. Either parties with smaller groups or something hosted in the resort.

“It’s a way to landmark the beginning of the season,” Nasilowski said. “It feels natural.”
“I’m definitely going to miss it but not going to miss the weeks of prep and set up,” Koric said.