Following up on Whistler's busiest summer in history is no easy feat, but with room night bookings for the resort's multi-day mountain biking festival, Crankworx, pacing well ahead of the past two years, the resort is in good shape to shatter the record set in 2013.
"Overall, August is pacing ahead of the past two years, in terms of room nights booked, and the dates for Crankworx are aligned with this trend, pacing significantly ahead of the last two years," wrote Tourism Whistler (TW) communications manager, Patricia Westerholm, in an email, who said that the two Fridays and Saturdays that fell within the event's schedule were the busiest, although mid-week bookings were also up from previous years.
While a final spectator tally isn't expected for Crankworx Whistler's 11th edition for a few weeks, early indications are that the festival drew more visitors than the past two years, which are the biggest in the event's history — including an estimated 30,000 for Saturday's signature slopestyle competition, Red Bull Joyride.
The figures should be extremely promising for organizers, especially considering how much of an economic driver the event is for Whistler, and British Columbia as a whole. In 2010, the last year statistics were available, Crankworx generated $22.9 million in net economic activity within the province, with $11.3 million of that occurring in the resort.
Local companies also stood to benefit from the influx of visitors during the festival's 10 days, Aug. 8 to 17, with village bike shop, Fanatyk Co., reporting steady business throughout the event.
"Basically, from the first Friday right through to the very end, it was brisk and busy," said co-owner Scott Humby, who estimated that sales were up 10 to 12 per cent compared to an average summer weekend.
Whistler Blackcomb's Zeb Keen, food and beverage supervisor for Garbanzo Bike & Bean in Carleton Lodge, said food sales were higher than during any past edition of Crankworx, and estimated that business doubled during the festival's final weekend, compared to the same period three weeks ago, before the event began.
Skiis and Biikes logistics manager Lou Currie said sales at their village shop, which focuses more on single-track biking than downhill, primarily, were similar to past festivals, although business saw a slight uptick during events held around Olympic Plaza, like Dirt Diaries and the Deep Summer Photo Challenge.
While no new major competitive events were added to Crankworx in 2014, children and family programming expanded from one day to 10 this year with the Kidsworx and Familyworx activities, bolstered by augmentation funding from the RMOW's Festival, Events and Animation program.
Overall, around 400 entries were recorded for all of the Kidsworx races, which included the Fat Tire Crit, Pumptrack Challenge and the B-Line race, exceeding organizers expectations.
"I was hoping for a good turnout, but it was definitely way higher than I anticipated, which goes to show that there is the demand for it in this town with the biking community that's here, and families from Vancouver and even the States," said Kidsworx coordinator Carly Janz.
Perhaps the biggest announcement of the festival came on Saturday, when organizers revealed Crankworx would be expanding to its third host site, Rotorua, New Zealand, in 2015.
Crankworx Events Inc. general manager Darren Kinnaird explained how growing the festival's reach to a new market also serves as an effective promotional tool for the resort itself.
"Anytime we can expand to the right location that gives us the opportunity to market Whistler to a new part of the world at a greater level, and to have more live webcast time for people to tune in to Crankworx events that allows us to further promote Whistler, we'll do it any day of the week," he said.
"Of course, there are a lot of people down there who want to come to Whistler, and it just seemed like a great fit."
Crankworx returns to the resort Aug. 7 to 16, 2015.
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