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"You look at something like Canada Day on Grouse Mountain," Robinson says. "Theres an opportunity wheres theres a big promotion. Molson Canadian spent some money on it so the ticket price is right, and they attracted over 10,000 people this year. They had their share of troubles for uploading, which is similar to what we used to experience when we held the Summit Series at 6,000 feet (on Whistler Mountain). But thats why Base II became so appealing. And we could potentially facilitate 10,000 people at that sight.
"If you look at Grouse last year, it was snowing up top and crappy, but they still had 3,000 people. Yes, weather plays a factor, but I think its more about momentum. Whats been lost here in the summer events is you just start to develop something like Summer Sessions, and its getting bigger and establishing a name, and then it just goes away."
Robinson had been considering alternatives to the Summit Series, looking for a profitable way to bring some big names to the resort. But where do you house such an event? And more importantly, if you supply the music, will the audience come?
Take the Bif Naked/GOB concert at the conference centre, part of last years WinterStart Festival. Two high profile names. it should have been a no brainer sell-out. Instead, only a few hundred people were scattered through a venue that holds up to 2,000. Why the no show? There doesnt seem to be an obvious answer. But Robinson has to ponder that same risk when considering future independent music events.
"Whistler-Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler arent necessarily in the concert business, and thats fair enough," she says. "But I also think the opportunity to do something in the alpine exists. Its just tough to find a venue. If I, for instance, brought in a mid-size band like Templar, where am I gonna put them? And if we did find somewhere for them to play, then you have to get hotel rooms and that sort of thing. Where am I possibly going to make money?" she laughs.
Entertainment really is dictated by money in a resort that can attract thousands of day skiers from Vancouver, but only a fraction of those visitors would make the same trip for an evening on the town. Whistler residents obviously have to make up a large part of the audience. The trouble you often run into, as Tourism Whistler and many night club managers can attest to, is ticket price. Because clubs in Whistler are relatively small, you have to tack on a higher admission charge in order to cover the cost of the musicians. Sometimes that doesnt seem to be a problem. Take the Swollen Members show at Garfinkels a few weeks ago, for example. The room was sold out by 10:30. But just a few weeks prior, Treble Charger, BMG artists with a gold record who have sold out Whistler venues in the past, saw only half the numbers at the very same club. A head-scratcher for sure.