The 17 th annual Whistler Cup was threatened with cancellation this year after Sierra Wireless pulled out as headline sponsor, and attempts to land new sponsors were derailed by the economic crisis.
This week, however, the federal government agreed to provide the 2009 Whistler Cup with $50,000, allowing the international juvenile race series to go on as planned.
“These are very difficult times, and a lot of events like ours that rely on funding from companies are having challenges,” said Wayne Holm, chairman of the Whistler Cup. “We lost our title sponsor last year after eight years, and we went through a huge amount of effort to recruit a new title sponsor. We were very close on a couple of those efforts, and then the economic crisis hit and all of a sudden we were going into this Whistler Cup very much underfunded.”
The Whistler Cup board approached the federal government and current Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn to find out if there was any federal funding available through Sport Canada and were told to apply.
“We were fortunate enough to get a positive response. Without that we wouldn’t be able to have our event this year,” said Holm.
According to Holm, the Whistler Cup is the only FIS approved international race in North America for the K1-K2 age group (age 11 to 14). As hosts, the Whistler Mountain Ski Club has to provide accommodation and food for up to 200 visiting athletes, including athletes from 17 to 24 countries.
On top of those costs there is the cost of hosting events like the athlete parade, the welcome gathering and the Saturday night banquet. They also pay to rent a substantial amount of equipment, although Holm says most of the equipment and technical support comes from Whistler-Blackcomb and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club.
Local hotels, restaurants and other suppliers also kick in the for the event, which launched the international race career for most members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team as well as the careers of some of the top World Cup racers. Past international participants include Lindsey Vonn, the 2008 overall World Cup champion, Julia Mancuso, and past overall winner Anja Paerson.
The federal sponsorship is for one year only. The race can apply for funding again next year, but Holm hopes to use the time to find another title sponsor.
“This is a huge event to put on, but we’re going into our 17 th year with people who have volunteered a lot of their time over those years and keep coming back,” he said. “It’s something I think Whistler can be proud of.”
The 2009 Whistler Cup races take place April 10-12.