The snow may be thick in Whistler’s woods, but the official start of the mountain bike season is only weeks away, with the annual WORCA Bike Swap on Saturday, April 19, followed by the first Loonie Race of the season on May 1.
Other events to follow include trail maintenance days, sign-on for Whistler’s youth dirt camps, the first Tuesday rider clinics, the first Phat Wednesday downhill series, and more — everything from past years, but more of it.
According to Whistler Off Road Cycling Association president Todd Hellinga, the club is in a better position this year to organize events after hiring a paid executive director in March to handle red tape and assist WORCA’s volunteer directors.
“It’s been working really well,” said Hellinga. “We all agreed that it was becoming a bit too much for volunteers to organize activities for a club with more than 1,000 members.
“(Executive director) Anne (Price) is getting things done, which is just what we needed to make the directors more productive. She’s a good fit — she’s passionate about biking, she’s familiar with the club and what we do, and has been a big asset. Things should run a lot smoother.”
WORCA is well-funded for this season, after almost 1,200 memberships were sold last season, although the bulk of the club’s budget is earmarked for trail maintenance projects. This year WORCA also received a $25,000 Community Enrichment Grant from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, mainly to help fund trail maintenance.
WORCA’s current board also met with some of its founding members last month to discuss the future of the association given the province’s new involvement in the sport through the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts (MOTSA). They reached a consensus that WORCA should refocus on maintaining and advocating for trails that are on Crown land to meet provincial standards.
“My impression is that it’s business as usual for us, (MOTSA) is not going to change the way we operate right now, and we haven’t seen the need to do anything different,” said Hellinga. “We’re going to keep working closely with both levels of government, the province and the municipality, and to keep building the sport. I think there was a little concern when the province got involved, but from what we’ve seen so far it’s all positive.”
The WORCA Bike Swap takes place on April 19 outside of Dusty’s in Creekside. Once again the swap will help to raise money for WORCA’s youth programs, including subsidizing eight dirt camps scheduled for the summer.
Participants can drop off their bikes and gear at the swap between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. at the cost of $2 per item, plus 10 per cent of all sales over $1,000 and 15 per cent of all sales $999 and under.
The swap will be open to the public until 3 p.m.
WORCA has made a few changes this year to help things go smoother. One addition is a new security fence to protect against theft, and additional security measures. A bike was stolen at last year’s swap, which cost WORCA’s youth programs almost $1,200.
As well there will be three credit card terminals for people purchasing bikes to keep lines moving, and bike stores selling used rentals are being presented with tags ahead of time to make registration easier.
There is a three per cent surcharge on all credit card purchases; cash will also be accepted. There is no debit card system in place.
Pick-up will begin at 2 p.m. and continue until 4 p.m. After that point items must be picked up or WORCA will consider them to be a donation to the association.
Hellinga hopes that people will sell their bikes through the swap and support youth programs.
“This event is there to support youth, and it’s providing a good service to the community. We hope people will take a little bit of a hit to hook people up with bikes, support the youth and get a few karma points,” said Hellinga.
This year there will be eight youth dirt camps, starting after the last week of school. Each week will be open for 30 kids, and two coaches will be hired to work with every 10 kids. The cost of participating is $150 for the week, up $50 from last year.
“The programs ran at a bit of a loss last year, and this way we could add coaches, add more camps and still break even,” said Hellinga.
Registration for the camps will be in May, and the date will be announced in WORCA ads and through the WORCA website.
On the trails front, trail director Jerome David is hosting two trails days in May this year to do spring cleaning on local trails, followed by four trail nights — two in July and two in August. As well, WORCA will be hiring two trail contractors for the season to upgrade and maintain the network.
“We really want to engage the community this year when it comes to trails,” said Hellinga. “We’re still hiring trail contractors, but we want the community to really take away a sense of ownership. When the North Shore Mountain Bike club hosts trail days they get 100 people out, and we need to see the same kind of support for our trails.”
The first Loonie of the season is scheduled for May 1, and will be sponsored by WORCA, Opa! And Nesters Liquor Store. The course will be whatever is clear of snow.
Sign-on is at 5:30 p.m. and the race gets underway at 6:30 p.m.
Memberships will be available at the sign-in for the same price as the previous two seasons. Individual memberships are $40, youth memberships (18 and under) are $25, and family memberships (two adults, two children) are $90.
Membership entitles members to take part in 22 WORCA races for a $2 fee, up to eight Phat Wednesday downhill races, additional weekend events like the Ken Quon Memorial Ride On and the Soo Valley Rumble, Wild Willies rides every Monday, youth dirt camps, Youth Loonie rides through the summer, and WORCA clinics every Wednesday. There is an additional charge for the clinics to cover the cost of coaches.
Once again WORCA will be insured by Cycling B.C., which also allows members to take part in some Cycling B.C. sanctioned events without purchasing additional insurance.
You can register as a member at any WORCA event, or online at www.worca.com after April 15.