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August looking strong for Whistler

Sunny long weekend, Crankworx driving last-minute bookings



The August long weekend was a busy one for Whistler, with sunshine and warm temperatures driving last-minute bookings. Tourism Whistler won't know its final numbers until at least mid-September, but wouldn't be surprised if visitor numbers were on par with last year — one of the busiest on record for the resort.

"Coming in, the pace of bookings wasn't as strong as last year (for the long weekend), but based on what happened last year and what we were seeing this year with the weather, I wouldn't be surprised if Saturday night bookings were over 85 per cent," said James Buttenshaw, the research manager for Tourism Whistler.

"It's hard to predict because of the last minute bookings we see for the summer, especially when the weather is as great as it was for the weekend."

Looking ahead to Crankworx Whistler, it was impossible to make a direct comparison. The Crankworx Whistler freeride mountain bike festival jumps between July and August ever year, depending on the World Cup and national schedule for downhill mountain bike racing. The 2011 event took place in July. However, Buttenshaw said bookings are similar to August 2010, and ahead of the non-Crankworx weekends of August 2011.

"We expect (occupancy) to be at least comparable to Crankworx in 2010, and the final weekend of Crankworx around the slopestyle event is usually one of the busiest weekends of the summer," he said.

Numbers for July are not yet available, and June — one of the coldest on record — was roughly on par with June 2011, where weather was also an issue.

Victoria Dyson, the vice-president of marketing and sales at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, said weather definitely played a role in their outstanding long weekend.

"We sold out," she said. "We had perfect fills on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, which was gratifying."

Dyson said they would have some turnover each day — up to 20 rooms, but these were snapped up quickly. Many rooms were pre-booked, but the sell-out was all about the weather.

"A lot of it was last minute, which is what happens in the summer when the sun starts shining and the phone starts ringing," she said. "We had a lot of pickup seven to 10 days leading into the weekend, just topped up from there."

Dyson said there is some pent-up demand among visitors after a cool June and mixed July.

For Crankworx, the clientele is a little different, but they are still expecting to sell out on both Saturdays of the festival, and to come close on the Fridays. "The weather forecast should help us as well," said Dyson.

Crankworx runs from Aug. 10 to 19 and features a dozen mountain bike competitions as well as live music, the Deep Summer Photo Challenge and films. It's one of the busiest events for the resort, and upwards of 100,000 people are expected to take in the events over 10 days.

As well, more than 20 hours of event coverage will be broadcast online around the world.