Opinion » Editorial


The time for Whistler to decide if it really wants to be a regular part of the World Cup downhill circuit is now. In the next few weeks the Whistler Resort Association, the municipality, the race organizing committee and community leaders will meet to discuss the possibilities and opportunities that the World Cup presents. They may be substantially greater than they have been in the past. To begin with, the FIS is presenting the opportunity to host the race in December. This works far better for Whistler than the traditional February or March date, when the resort is busiest and accommodation most difficult. Secondly, it provides Whistler with a major event, generating international exposure, right at the start of the ski season. Most winter vacation bookings may be done well before December but the resort isn't sold out all winter. Media attention in December could produce extra room-nights in January and early February. One of the major obstacles, at this point, is the need for snowmaking on the lower part of the Dave Murray Downhill course on Whistler Mountain. Apparently $2 million is the price tag for the snowmaking, and Whistler Mountain has indicated that is not within its budget at this point. The lift company has hinted that since the race is of benefit to the whole community than perhaps the community could pick up some of the tab. But snowmaking is only a part of the package. Creating a community-wide festival around the race and other events is what is really required. By creating a festival there is an opportunity for marketing programs that could bring financial benefits both to the resort and to the Vancouver Ski Foundation, which has shouldered the losses the last three years. There have been previous promises to make Whistler a permanent World Cup downhill site. Three years ago Alpine Canada made a commitment to Whistler to host the men's downhill for five years. The FIS reneged on that Alpine Canada promise by re-arranging the entire World Cup schedule. However, that may work to Whistler's advantage — if it wants the World Cup. There is an evolution underway within the organization of the World Cup circuit. New managers with experience in professional sports marketing are gaining influence. The World Cup may even become an entity unto itself, separate from the FIS and its old boys network. As well, World Cup officials are focusing on a limited number of resorts around the world to host downhills. Experienced race organizing committees will likely become more directly involved with World Cup officials in determining race sites. This, too, is an opportunity for the Whistler community. But the time for Whistler to speak up is now. There may not be another opportunity for some time.