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Whistler hosts successful Mountain Bike Tourism Symposium

Organizer pleased with progress at biennial gathering
KICKING OFF Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association executive director Martin Littlejohn speaks to kick off the 2019 MTB Tourism Symposium at Dusty's on Oct. 3. <ParaStyle:CUTLINE\:CUTLINE Credit>Photo by Dan Falloon

After years of holding its symposiums in emerging centres, the Western Canadian Mountain Bike Tourism Association brought its biennial event to the mecca of Whistler from Oct. 2 to 4.

With more than 200 people in attendance, executive director Martin Littlejohn was thrilled with how the conference, held in Creekside at Dusty's and Legends Whistler, played out.

"It worked out really well. The speakers were amazing and the audience was very engaged," he said. "Whistler did a fantastic job."

Littlejohn felt that stakeholders from smaller towns across the province and beyond had plenty to learn from Whistler's example, including through a panel discussion featuring Whistler Mountain Bike Park's Wendy Robinson, Resort Municipality of Whistler chief administrative officer Mike Furey, Whistler Off Road Cycling Association president Dale Mikkelsen, Whistler Bike Guides' Grant Lamont and Tourism Whistler president and CEO Barrett Fisher speaking about the resort's status as the centre of the mountain-biking universe. As well, bike park manager Brad White and Crankworx's Julia Montague helmed separate presentations on Whistler's role in the community.

"There are so many things happening in Whistler that are a few years ahead of what other destinations are likely to be experiencing, but it's great to have that opportunity to look into the future, potentially, or [see] what are the issues we have to prepare for," he said.

The symposium also serves as a chance for stakeholders to discuss larger issues facing the industry, such as how to face climate change and properly acknowledge the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (or UNDRIP). As well, another major topic of discussion was how to deal with the sport's increasing growth.

Other speakers included: Dr. Lana Ciarniello; IMBA Canada's Justin Darbyshire; Cascade Environmental Resource Group's Todd Hellinga; Origin Design's Danielle Kristmanson; Walt Judas of the Tourism Industry Association of BC; MLA Jordan Sturdy; and Chelsey Walker of the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program.

"We're all a bit more focused after this in terms of understanding what those challenges are and how we're going to address them," Littlejohn said.

Littlejohn closed the conference by saying that the two years before the next symposium serve as a chance for clubs and other groups to work on everything that had been discussed already. Littlejohn noted that the provincial e-bike policy stemmed from the 2017 symposium in Revelstoke.

"E-bikes were considered to be an unknown and there was a lot of concern in Revelstoke about what it was going to mean. The province has responded with some policies. It's not perfect, by any means, yet. It's [still in its] very early stages, but at least there's a bit of a pace going now," he said.

In the future, Littlejohn said the symposium may join forces with the Canada West Ski Areas Association, as its own Mountain Bike Forum at SilverStar Mountain Resort coincided with this year's tourism symposium.

"There's definitely some crossover with mountain sports within that realm," Littlejohn said. "There's some interest in terms of exploring what that could look like, and that could be a really good partnership."

Check the Nov. 7 edition of

Pique for a feature story wrapping up the conference.