Committee to develop business plan for World Cup downhills
Creating a business plan that makes December World Cup downhill races beneficial for the whole valley is the task of a five-member committee struck Monday.
Executives of the Whistler Resort Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Whistler Mountain Ski Corp., the Vancouver Ski Foundation and Whistler council sat down together for the first time to discuss the future of World Cup downhill events in Whistler at a retreat at Brew Creek.
"It was a meeting with a good dose of reality," says Whistler Mayor Ted Nebbeling.
"I think all parties recognize the value of the World Cup, both in the past and in the future. We're going to put all the elements on paper and show the benefits to the community."
"We'll take what's important to each group and incorporate that into a business plan," says Don McQuaid, who will head the committee.
The Vancouver Ski Foundation has been the driving force behind World Cup races in Whistler the last three years. Whistler Mountain and the WRA have made substantial contributions to the races, but ownership and overall organization of the events has rested with the VSF, a volunteer organization.
The VSF has felt all along that the event must be community owned if it is to succeed in the long run, but as McQuaid says, Monday's meeting "was the very first time the whole group has sat down together and had an opportunity to put their points across."
The concept now being considered is to create a festival around the downhill as a kick off to the ski season, starting in December 1996. A Whistler foundation is being looked at as the vehicle with overall control of the event. Any profit would then go back to the foundation to benefit the valley as a whole.
Bill McNeney, chief of race for the World Cup and a member of the VSF, says the business plan will also try to integrate the event with the resort's marketing plans.
"It doesn't limit this to the World Cup," McNeney says. "It could be part of a festival, it could be a whole bunch of stuff."
The switch from late February or early March, when the resort is busiest, to a date in December was a key to getting support from the WRA, the Chamber of Commerce and, ultimately, local businesses.
"There are hurdles to overcome, but everyone liked the concept and the date," says Whistler Mountain’s Marketing Director, David Perry.
"We believe the World Cup is of great value to the resort as a whole, as well as to Whistler Mountain," Perry adds. "People around the world see that Whistler can put on an exciting downhill and a great event and that sends a message.
"It’s difficult to measure, but if you look at the goals of the resort, one of them is to extend the season. Just about every ski resort in the world is deserted before Christmas."
A snowmaking system for virtually the entire Dave Murray Downhill course will be needed if races are to be held with any certainty in December. Funding for that system still has to be worked out.
McNeney notes that history has shown money is not an impediment when Whistler gets behind an idea.
"Whistler’s history is ‘this is it; let’s make it happen.’"