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WORCA hopes for return to normal ahead of 2021 season

Despite challenges due to COVID restrictions, WORCA believes 2021 mountain biking season will be strong
WORCA trails May 2021
WORCA volunteers building a new mountain biking trail May 4, 2021.

Optimism and expectations are high for the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) ahead of the 2021 trail-riding season.

After a difficult year in 2020, which saw its funding from the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) cut by $80,000, membership numbers drop by nearly 200 people, and trail usage spike nearly 200 per cent, early numbers suggest things could be returning to normal this year for the organization.

According to WORCA president Dale Mikkelsen, it currently has 853 members signed up, an increase from the 690 registered at the same time last year, putting WORCA on pace for its usual 1,600 to 1,700. However, after membership dropped in 2020, there is still a long way to go to reach its goal of a consistent 2,000 members year to year.

“We are a town of roughly [12,000 to 14,000] full-time residents and I would assume that nearly half, if not more than half, use the trail network that WORCA maintains and manages,” said Mikkelsen. “So, my sort of plea to the community is that $60, which is the cost of an adult membership, is probably the cheapest season pass in town and offers an absolutely unlimited resource anywhere from the valley floor to the high alpine.”

Despite numbers rebounding from last year, the current COVID-19 restrictions are still presenting some struggles for WORCA. Specifically in terms of their weekly trail nights, which saw a reduction in the number of volunteers used, and its annual bike swap that had to be postponed for another year.

However, through all the bad news, there were some silver linings—reinforcing just how much the community cares about the work WORCA does, and how important the trails are to the entire community.

“I think we all learned a lot last year,” said Mikkelsen. “Things that people didn’t anticipate, including ourselves, including the RMOW, and that what COVID meant was a huge reliance on outdoor recreation as everyone’s outlet. And with that increased ridership the trails had a hard summer. They got very well ridden. 

“Last year being the first year of COVID was a year that a lot of philanthropists and local businesses came forward to fill the gap that was left in our [RMOW] fee-for-service funding. It was really inspiring.”

However, said Mikkelsen, with the pandemic dragging on there is a concern that community financial support may not be there in 2021. “When people are having such hard times themselves, [will that] happen again? I doubt it. So, we are really looking to the RMOW to increase the fee-for-service funding this year versus last year.”

With the community stepping up to help them out in a big way last year, Mikkelsen and his team at WORCA realized that people like giving and helping out where they can. This epiphany sparked another new idea—the Super Supporter Membership. This is a way for people who want to do more to help the trails and can afford to give more to be able to do so, while receiving some cool gifts in return.

The Super Supporter Membership costs $300 and includes a limited edition tube decal from RideWrap and a custom WORCA-branded jersey from ENNEF Design Corp.

Kelly Wilson, one of the 29 current Super Supporter members and a WORCA member for the past five years, was more than happy to spring for the more expensive membership this year as a way to give back and help maintain the quality level of his favourite summer activity.

“I ride a lot, and thus derive a lot of value from our amazing trail network, so I feel obligated to give back,” he said.

“But with two young children and a full-time job, I don’t have much free time for volunteering. So, to satisfy that sense of obligation, I always donate something whenever WORCA asks for money. 

“Three hundred dollars seemed like a lot at first glance, but is actually very reasonable compared to a season pass on the hill in either winter or summer. I’ll definitely continue to be a super supporter in subsequent years.”

With the RMOW dealing with its recent ransomware attack, the fee-for-service funding announcement has been put on hold for a week. Mikkelsen expects to find out exactly how much WORCA will be working with sometime next week. But he’s feeling pretty good about where the group stands as the RMOW has already fast-tracked the organization $35,000 to get started on the necessary early season repairs and maintenance.