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Events postponed by fire closures

West Side Wheel Up, Samurai, Sea to Summit pushed back; Cheakamus Challenge still on with contingency date Continuing dry conditions and a growing forest fire hazard have prompted the provincial government to issue a backcountry travel restriction fo

West Side Wheel Up, Samurai, Sea to Summit pushed back; Cheakamus Challenge still on with contingency date

Continuing dry conditions and a growing forest fire hazard have prompted the provincial government to issue a backcountry travel restriction for all of southern B.C., applying to all crown land. The restriction came into effect on Friday, Aug. 29, and will remain in effect until Sept. 14. If dry conditions persist, it could be extended even longer.

As a result, several Whistler events have been rescheduled: The West Side Wheel Up, in its 10th year, has been pushed back from this Saturday, Sept. 6, with a makeup date still to be chosen.

The Samurai of Singletrack has been pushed back from Sept. 13 to Oct. 4, where it will start shortly after sunrise to compensate for shorter daylight hours.

The Sea to Summit Adventure Race, once scheduled for Sept. 6 and 7 has been pushed back to Oct. 25 and 26.

The Cheakamus Challenge is applying for an exemption to the backcountry restriction and may still run on Sept. 20. If the restriction is extended for any reason, the make-up date is Sept. 27.

In addition, Loonie races and recreation mountain biking and hiking has been restricted. All trails in the valley are closed to the public with the exception of the Emerald Forest trails, A River Runs Through It, Lost Lake Trails, Nesters trails (Cut Yer Bars) and the Valley Trail system. Whistler-Blackcomb is fully open and operational, including the mountain bike park, although they have banned smoking on the lifts and in other sensitive areas.

All areas in Whistler that are elevated or inaccessible by fire crews have been closed by Whistler Fire Services.

According to Phil Chew, the organizer of the West Side Wheel Up, the move to close local trails came as a surprise, but he understands why it had to happen.

"We’re the first race to fall to the fire hazard. Hopefully it can be rescheduled, but we’ll have to see," said Chew.

He contacted fire services to find out if the ban would apply to the Wheel Up and Chew was told that it would affect the trails west of Alta Lake Road, which are more than half the race, as well as the after-party and barbecue in the woods behind Rainbow Park.

"To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to hold it just now anyway with the fire hazard so high," said Chew. "It was too much of a liability for us. What happens if we burn down Rainbow Park? We can’t be responsible for that."

If the race doesn’t happen, Chew hopes that the prizes that have been donated can be raffled off for the B.C. Disabled Ski Team, the beneficiary of the race.

The West Side Wheel Up follows the route to Beaver Pass on Lower Sproatt, then Whip Me, Snip Me to Rebob before tackling A River Runs Through It in its entirety. It finishes in Rainbow Park.

The Samurai of Singletrack is in its third year, and covers up to 20 local mountain bike trails in the same day.

Organizer Tony Horn agrees with the closure and will move the event later in the year than Oct. 4 if necessary.

"My stance is that we could file for an exemption, but for me, my piece of mind, I’d just rather not do it if the risk is high," he said.

"Even if the Ministry of Forests just gave us an exemption, I would still be tempted to postpone it. When you see what happened in Kelowna and you realize that the same thing could happen here, a bike race isn’t all that important."

He points out that the Samurai of Singletrack logo is of a Samurai heading downhill on a mountain bike with the hills on fire all around him. "I don’t want to see that for real," he said.

Because the Samurai is limited to just over 100 riders and a handful of volunteers, Horn needs all of the entries that can make it on Oct. 4 to confirm that they can make it on that day.

If not, those positions will be passed on to the next riders and volunteers on the event’s waiting list. Contact Horn at anthony_horn@hotmail.com. Do not call Slope Side Supply, as Horn is away until Monday. After that point you can contact him at 604-938-1680, but he would prefer e-mail.

The Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic Mountain Bike Race is scheduled for Sept. 20, one week after the government’s ban on backcountry travel is set to expire, and organizer Grant Lamont is confident that it will rain by then. If the ban is extended, he is prepared to move the event back to Sept. 27.

"My prediction is that the event is going to run," said Lamont.

He is applying for an exemption for the race, but doesn’t think he will need it – rain is in the forecast this weekend, he said.

Whistler’s Don MacLaurin, a retired forester who helps to manage the Whistler Interpretive Forest, has given the event his blessing, said Lamont.

"The only thing we’re going to have up there besides riders is water, which can’t be a bad thing," said Lamont.

The Cheakamus Challenge, which is in its 21 st season, starts in Squamish and finishes in Whistler, taking backroads and bike trails where possible.

The Sea to Summit Adventure Race runs over two days, starting at Deep Cove and finishing in Whistler Village.

The organizers received official word on Sept. 2 that their application for an exemption was denied. They then polled the people that had signed up for the race, and found the group evenly divided between moving the race and keeping it this weekend and postponing it to the next available date, Oct. 25 to 26.

"To come up with a new race route in less than a week’s time would have been setting ourselves up for failure and ultimately your investment in the race fee would have been a disappointment," wrote race director Dean Payne on the Sea to Summit Web site. "In a year when our focus is improving all the systems of our race execution, as we proudly have accomplished in the first two races of the schedule at Blue Mountain and Panorama, we would have taken a giant step backwards and jeopardized the quality of our signature race in the Sea to Sky Corridor."

WORCA’s Loonie Race series will go ahead as planned, although hosts are being asked to limit their courses to the trails that are open.

"If we get the promised rain this weekend, some trails may open, but you will have to play it by ear," said Bob Lessard, the director of planning for WORCA. "Choice of trails may not be very big, even next week."




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