Feature - Sponsors wanted 

The life of a professional athlete/billboard

Winter is whispered of. The turkey sale a-gobbling. The Buyers Guides have hit the shelves. It’s time to start thinking about Very Important Things. Like, what boards are you buying this season? And, how do you budget for the season pass, the rent hike, the bike you’re still paying off AND deck yourself out for winter?

What you need is a sponsor.

Well, here’s the bad news, baby.

If you’re just starting to think now about how you can line up some free gear, you’ve missed the boat and are standing on the wrong dock. But it’s never too early to hitch a ride on the Midnight Express, the Gravy Train of Life as a Sponsored Athlete. Start planning for next year.

Whistler is HQ for pro-athletes. They head out of the valley on secret missions – photo shoots in Spain, guiding trips in Argentina, a filming stint in Bella Coola, trade shows in Las Vegas. In Whistler’s glory days, they’d swing by the Southside Deli on their way back into town, and there, their swag was as good a currency as any other. There’s still a black-market in traded swag. Everyone seems to know someone who’s hooked up with a pro-deal.

Just being in Whistler is going to open doors, right?

Wrong.

One locally based sales rep says Whistler is a very difficult place for sponsorship opportunities. "Everyone here thinks they’re a superstar. They just want to be given free stuff. They don’t realize it’s a job. Don’t realize they have to bring some value back to the table."

Arc’teryx’s Athlete Manager, John Irvine, echoes the idea that the overconcentration of athletes in Whistler makes it harder for people who live here to get sponsorship. "We already have so many athletes centred in the West Coast of Canada, whereas in Colorado, which is an equally important market for us, we only have two or three athletes. So I need to concentrate on other areas where my reps need more help."

Manager of the Adult Ski School at Whistler Blackcomb, Otto Kamstra, comments that being in Whistler can be a disadvantage to ski pros looking to be hooked up with sponsorship deals. "Sponsorship for ski pros, first of all, depends on where you are in the country. If you live in Ontario and are a Level 3, you’ve got a good chance of picking up an equipment sponsor. The full deal – skis, boots, bindings, poles, gloves, goggles. But here, there are a lot of Level 4s who can’t find a sponsor. You need to have put more time in the business. Companies want to see that you have a higher than average profile."

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