With up to 40,000 people expected to attend the Pemberton Festival from July 25 to 27, the Sea to Sky Highway will see an unusual number of cars next weekend. Although concert-goers will have to observe the lower posted speeds in construction zones, the Ministry of Transportation has adjusted its work schedules to ensure that highway work doesn’t interfere with the flow of traffic.
“The Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project folks have been holding ongoing meetings with festival organizers, and talking about what the needs will be around the issue of traffic,” said Dave Crebo, spokesperson for the Ministy of Transportation.
“What we’ve heard is that the organizers are less concerned with the northbound influx because some people will be arriving on Thursday night, others on Friday morning, and others during the day on Friday or on Saturday morning. There will be some minor traffic, but they were not concerned because we always take steps to minimize disruptions around a weekend and this is the high season for the resort of Whistler. There should be no more than a 20 minute delay northbound from Horseshoe Bay in that time.”
However, with most people leaving after the show on Sunday evening — although campers are allowed to stay until Monday morning — Crebo said they expect the highway to be busy for several hours.
“The regular closure that would be happening on Monday from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. won’t be happening,” he said. “The contractor is also well in the loop about the festival, and are doing what they can to prevent any delays. There should be no significant construction over the weekend that would lead to stoppages or slow-downs. There may be slower moving traffic because of the volume, but the traffic shouldn’t be impacted by highway work.”
At least 20,000 people are camping on or near the festival site. The majority of tickets sold, more than 30,000 were for all three days of the festival, which means roughly 10,000 concert-goers will likely be staying in Pemberton and Whistler for the event. Up to 10,000 other day tickets will be sold for each day of the event.
While the number of cars shuttling between Whistler and Pemberton is unknown, many of the artists and their crews are expected to stay in the resort. As for concert-goers, Arlene Schieven from Tourism Whistler says the weekend is shaping up to be the busiest of the summer.
“Based on our 120-day pace reports that particular weekend is pacing higher than any other weekend of the summer, and it’s on track to be the busiest weekend, tracking higher than the last couple of years,” said Schieven.
“Certainly we can attribute that to the Pemberton Festival. We’re probably more than 10 per cent ahead on the Friday night, and just under 10 per cent on the Saturday.”
Schieven says the Crankworx weekends are also busy, and will get busier closer to the event dates.
Concert organizers Live Nation are strongly encouraging carpooling to the event by offering free parking for vehicles with four or more passengers. Otherwise, the festival will charge $50 for parking for campers staying from Thursday to Monday, and $90 for vehicles that belong to guests that are staying off site.
As well, there will be daily shuttles between Whistler and the concert site, just north of Pemberton, for all three days of the event. The cost is $90 for unlimited access.
As for local traffic, residents of Pemberton are being advised of peak travel hours around the concert, with recommendations when to travel.
The Pemberton Music Festival is a three-day concert featuring close to 100 bands and solo acts. Headliners include Nine Inch Nails, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Tragically Hip, The Flaming Lips, Coldplay, Jay-Z, and Death Cab For Cutie.