Businesses take Ironman in stride 

Over 15,000 expected in resort at tail end of busy summer for events

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID MCCOLM - LONG HAUL Riders crest a hill outside of Penticton in Ironman Canada 2012. The bike leg for the event, taking place in Whistler and Pemberton on Aug. 25 is 180km.
  • Photo by David McColm
  • LONG HAUL Riders crest a hill outside of Penticton in Ironman Canada 2012. The bike leg for the event, taking place in Whistler and Pemberton on Aug. 25 is 180km.

Crankworx business at Evolution is brisk to say the least so preparing for Ironman isn't high on the agenda at the moment.

"(We're) trying to get Crankworx out of the way and then we'll think of Ironman," said store manager Trevor Flint, who is expecting Crankworx traffic to be at its peak this weekend.

He added, a little tongue in cheek: "They should space things out a bit more for us!"

Flint is speaking of the back-to-back events and festivals this summer, on top of regular summer traffic, boosted by nonstop sunshine, that has some businesses booming.

But lest Whistler forget: the biggest event of the summer season by far, the biggest event since the 2010 Olympic Games, is fast approaching.

More than 10,000 people including 2,600 athletes, 3,000 volunteers and thousands of supporting family and friends are expected for Ironman, which will take place on Sunday, Aug. 25.

It is expected to generate $15 million into the regional economy with each athlete typically spending $2,800 in the community.

Tourism Whistler announced this week that room nights for Ironman are pacing ahead of the same dates last year when there was no event.

"In a way it's kind of snuck up on us but it's going to be here in two weekends, and personally, I'm getting quite excited about it," laughed Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

Whistler Chamber of Commerce board chair Sue Adams said she thinks business has been good this summer and businesses have been nose-to-the-grindstone.

There's an air of confidence among merchants about the Ironman, given that Whistler was able to pull off the world's biggest sporting event three years ago.

"We got through the Olympics and this is only one day," she said of the sentiment around town.

But, she added, there is a wealth of information on the Whistler Chamber website to get businesses ready and able to make the most of the opportunity.

The owners of Alpine Café, ten minutes north of the village, aren't letting the opportunity pass them by.

Martini Bart and Kevin Wood are planning a block party at their Alpine location on the highway where people can cheer on the Ironman participants who are expected to pass their highway-side café five times either on their bikes or during the run. They will have a BBQ, and Whistler FM will be broadcasting from their location. It's to celebrate not only Ironman but also their ten-year anniversary.

"I think we're in a unique situation," said Bart.

They decided to make the most of a unique situation — the roads to their café will be closed for good portions of the day so people will have to bike or walk (For more information on road closures go to "We just have to adjust," said Bart simply.

They will also be running the concession at Rainbow Park at the start of the race.

"I'm not really sure what I expect," admitted Wood. But they will be prepared to serve about 1,000 coffees, along with breakfast options.

Though Ironman is celebrating its 31st year, this is the first year in Whistler.

Scott Gadsby, general manager at Citta, said they have nothing special planned at this point. "I think we will focus on making sure everyone is fed and happy and use this year as a measuring stick for next year," said Gadsby.

"We will be focusing on doing our best to make everyone's weekend memorable."

As for what it's all going to mean to the bottom line of local businesses, Flint at Evolution for one is skeptical.

"All the ones that have been coming up training have all been super prepared and they know what they're doing... They don't turn up to a race without things.

"I don't know how much we're going to see retail-wise."

The Village Expo

As part of Whistler's deal to host Ironman, the municipality agreed to a business Expo at Whistler Olympic Plaza.

The Expo takes place from Aug. 22-26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will include very specialized services and equipment for Ironman participants but local businesses were invited to take part too.

Scandinave Spa, the official massage partner of the event, will be at the Expo.

Sales and marketing manager Alissa Mulligan-Gavreau said Scandinave is a "perfect fit" for the event, a place where athletes can see real benefits from hydrotherapy at the spa.

"We feel it's a good way for us to be involved and offer and service," she said.

Village Stroll Business Showcase

The municipality is bending is oft-strict village signage rules and village business rules for the event, encouraging Whistler shops to take part in the Village Stroll Business Showcase from Aug. 22-26. The showcase is a way for businesses to promote their store through sidewalk sales.

The Whistler Chamber of Commerce is suggesting businesses pull out all the stops. Among the ideas are: post welcome signs in your windows, create an attractive display in front of your store, use balloons; offer two-for-one deals or deeply discounted sale items outside to entice people in, consider extending your hours, re-educate staff on customer service, create a fun atmosphere with upbeat music, anticipate the needs of Ironman guests.

More suggestions can be found at



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