Although exact visitor numbers won’t be available for several weeks, early reports suggest that the nine-day Crankworx freeride mountain bike festival was a huge draw to the resort, and a success for organizers.
Jeremy Roche, who manages the event for Whistler-Blackcomb, says he needs to see Tourism Whistler’s numbers and the results of surveys before declaring victory, but early indications are good.
“We’re thrilled, this year has been an enormous success and the whole team couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished,” he said.
Feedback from the riders has been especially positive, which Roche says reflects their efforts to make the event more friendly for competitors.
“We really tried when we commenced planning for 2008 to create a better rider experience, and we really focused on welcoming the athletes and making sure the courses and communication were improved, and making the events a lot of fun. I really feel after chatting with the riders that we accomplished that.
“The prize money was up, we brought in some new formats that went well, and we focused a lot of energy to make our race events better. There are no UCI points for Kokanee Crankworx, so at the end of the day we want events that the top riders want to race. We brought in a new timing company this year, which worked really well.”
As for the new events, the Giant Slalom and VW Trick Showdown, Roche said they would likely be back next year.
“The Giant Slalom was essentially a new race category, and the riders really liked the course and the event was fun to watch — right down to the amazing dramatic finish with Brian Lopes and Greg Minnaar, where Lopes crashed and Minnaar stopped mid-course to make sure he was all right.
“The Volkswagen Trick Showdown was just a great event, and I think Greg Watts stole the show with his flip-whip. People around the world were tuning into the Internet at (www.go211.com) to watch it live. The spectators were incredible, the riders were pushing it, and we made Whistler the place to be.”
Roche also had an opportunity to speak to event sponsors, and most of them are pleased.
“I was able to have a few debriefing meetings with sponsors, and we intend to do more over the next few weeks, but all of the sponsors I’ve spoken to were pleased with their investment in Kokanee Crankworx,” he said. “They’re really pleased with the growth in visitation, and the quality of events has come a long way.”
The visitor numbers likely won’t be available until after the end of the month when hotel properties submit their reports to Tourism Whistler, and there were two surveys during the festival — one by Tourism Whistler in the village and an online survey by Whistler-Blackcomb on the Crankworx website.
Arlene Schieven, vice president of marketing at Tourism Whistler, says some of their survey results are in.
“Obviously we saw lots of local and Vancouver-based visitors, and most were travelling with their friends and spouses, although we did see quite a few families as well, and a lot of people stayed overnight,” she said.
“About half of the people surveyed had been to Crankworx before, and it was a very influential reason for being in Whistler. Also nice to see, most said they would return, and most would recommend it to others, so it was a very positive event that way.”
Most also said they heard about the event by word of mouth, which Schieven says is to be expected when an event is more mature and awareness is already high.