The ninth annual Crankworx is over and Darren Kinnaird, the mountain bike festival's general manager, is still basking in the glow of two weeks of first-time achievements.
The first of the firsts would be the sheer number of visitors, with an estimated 60,000 people in Whistler Village on Saturday, Aug. 18, for the second last day of competition. Kinnaird said visitor numbers were high for the whole two weeks of the festival.
"The crowds were incredible, just so many people were here right from the very beginning. Traditionally, the first few days are quieter but this year it seemed busy right from the word 'go'," Kinnaird said.
"Someone told me there were 60,000 people in the village on Saturday. There is no way of verifying that right now... But they were saying it was as busy as it was during the peak of the Olympics; as busy as it gets at Christmas."
Kinnaird ran off a list of other firsts for the festival, from the sporty to record business for some Whistler companies. The eclectic mix included breaking records for:
• the number of exhibitors and size and scope of exhibitors;
• the number of unique viewers to see live webcasts and replays;
• multiple days of sell-outs of tickets for the Top of the World Trail;
• the biggest prize purse for a downhill race ever (Jeep Canadian Open Downhill) and for a Slopestyle (Red Bull Joyride);
• the biggest jump ever in a slopestyle competition (60 feet);
• Steve Smith of Vancouver Island winning the Triple Crown of Crankworx — all three downhill races (Garbanzo Downhill, Air Downhill, and Jeep Canadian Open Downhill) — which had never been done before;
• Garibaldi Lift Company having its best day ever;
• beating the 10-day visit record for the Whistler Mountain Bike Park; and
• record visits to crankworx.com.
As well, the Resort Municipality of Whistler reported that during Crankworx they were able to utilize the fibre optic network installed during the 2010 Winter Games to the greatest extent since the Games ended. The network was used to connect Crankworx events and Whistler Olympic Plaza, and broadcasting live footage on big screens.
"We think (the number of people) had a little to do with the new programming we did," Kinnaird said. "There were the concerts, and also the Dual Speed and Style race drew a lot of people into the village on the first Saturday night. There were between 6,000 and 8,000 coming to check out that event, which was really cool, said Kinnaird. "It's 'made for' TV. The best slopestyle guys, the best racers going head to head in a format that doesn't favour either side, so it's kind of neat."
Kinnaird said riders are often a source of new ideas for Crankworx events.
"The more you can get their involvement, the more interested they are in competing in events," he said.
This spike in guests coming to see the festival did not surprise Kinnaird.
"The interest in the event grows every year. We had the most amazing weather we could have dreamed of," he said, apart from a few thunderstorm concerns.
And how was Crankworx measuring up in the pantheon of large-scale mountain bike events around the world?
"We have the biggest slopestyle event in the world. There's nothing that draws as many fans as that. There are two diamond events in the Freeride Mountain Bike tour and this is one of them," he said.
"Whistler is so unique. It has everything the big partners, the exhibitors and everyone is looking for: the great restaurants, the nightlife, the Whistler Mountain Bike Park is such a massive attraction... and it's just so appealing to all of the different stakeholder groups."