Mountain Bike Tourism Symposium coming 

Organizer thrilled to bring event to sport's 'flagship'

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JUSTA JESKOVA - COVERGING IN WHISTLER The 2019 Mountain Bike Tourism Symposium is coming to Whistler in October. -
  • Photo by Justa Jeskova
  • COVERGING IN WHISTLER The 2019 Mountain Bike Tourism Symposium is coming to Whistler in October.

The 2019 Mountain Bike Tourism Symposium is coming to Whistler from Oct. 2 to 4.

Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association executive director Martin Littlejohn is excited to bring the biennial conference to the sport's heart in British Columbia.

Littlejohn said the organization put out a request for proposals in the Vancouver-Coastal Mountains region and a local contingent jumped at the chance, while Mission and Powell River were also strongly considered.

"What we've done for the previous symposiums is we've wanted to spread it around. We choose a region that we've yet to have a symposium in, of the six tourism regions in the province. We hadn't had it here in this part of the province yet," he said. "Whistler was the first one to respond and they ended up winning the bid for this year."

Recent hosts include Williams Lake and Revelstoke, and while the organization was pondering a return to a smaller centre, Littlejohn said Whistler's allure was too strong to overcome.

"Typically in the past, we've always chosen locations that were always a little bit off the beaten trail, perhaps a little less known," he said. "At this juncture, I suppose, and with the development of mountain-bike tourism, it made sense to go right with the flagship and use Whistler as the backdrop for this year's symposium."

Though the Whistler Conference Centre would be the first location to come to mind to host, Littlejohn said it was too late in the game to consider the high-demand Whistler Village location. Instead, the symposium will run in Creekside and Dusty's will serve as the main venue.

"It's a bit of an unusual venue for us, but I think it's going to work as a rustic, adventurous Whistler feel," he said. "It'll be an interesting chance to showcase a little different side of Whistler, the Creekside of Whistler. It's nice because it's more intimate. We'll hopefully be able to have everybody staying close by and people can rely on a bike to get around and not worry about having to drive anywhere."

While speakers and content haven't been totally set in stone, Littlejohn said the broad focus will be on creating a sustainable approach to trails that also ticks the boxes of the demands placed on them.

"(Mountain biking is) still growing and it's still relatively new to some areas of the province. Certainly, Whistler is ahead of a lot of the other mountain-biking destinations in B.C. There's a lot to learn from their experience and certainly, some of the challenges that we're all facing, it's somewhat amplified a bit for Whistler, is keeping up with the demand and supporting the management and maintenance of trails so that the visitor's experience is a strong one, as well as for local riders," he said. "Everyone appreciates the work that goes on by the clubs and trail advocates in terms of maintaining and making sure the trails are in good condition and are as safe as they can be, but it's not an easy task."

Littlejohn added that the symposium will focus on finding ways to support local clubs and advocates in their missions.

"From an economic side of it, we're doing really well. The social benefits we provide are doing really well also, but we need to address how we can make it more sustainable to make sure that we're mitigating the impacts of mountain biking and give the trails the love they deserve," he said.

After years trying to balance tourism and advocacy interests, the Whistler symposium will be the first held since the Western Mountain Bike Advocacy Symposium spun off and ran for the first time in North Vancouver last October. Littlejohn said the tighter focus will help pinpoint the symposium's content.

"It's all part of a very complicated picture, but it's very important, obviously," he said.

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