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Insurance woes force WORCA to raise fees

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For the second year in a row the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association is being forced to raise its membership dues, as insurance rates continue to climb.

Before the start of the 2003 season, WORCA’s insurance company stopped covering mountain bike clubs and events. As a result, the Association went to Cycling B.C. for insurance, adding another $10 to the cost of an adult membership.

This year the cost of insurance for Cycling B.C. associate members has gone up again, from $15 per member to $23.50, far more than the $2.50 increase that was projected. Both Cycling B.C. and WORCA looked for other alternatives but were unable to find another insurance company willing to cover a mountain bike club for a lower price.

Lloyds, the insurance underwriter for Cycling B.C., is offering a cheaper alternative, but with $2 million in liability coverage instead of $5 million. The problem with the alternative rate is that it doesn’t include racing, which is a core part of WORCA.

This year WORCA memberships will increase to $40 for adults, $30 for youth and $90 for families, including two adults, up from $30 for adults and $25 for juniors.

WORCA president Mike Watton believes it’s still positive when you consider that the cost of a membership has only doubled in the last three years while the price of insurance has quadrupled.

"Forty dollars is still a really good value," he said. "The money helps us support the maintenance of our mountain bike trails, which are the best trails in the world. First off, we have to repair the damage to trails from the October floods."

WORCA plans to spend a minimum of $8,000 this year on trail maintenance, which doesn’t include the hundreds of volunteer hours that go into trail maintenance days and nights. The group also hopes to find additional funding to take on major trail upgrades in the valley, working in co-operation with other organizations. WORCA was an active participant in last year’s upgrade to A River Runs Through It, and helped Chris Markle to complete his epic Comfortably Numb trail.

In addition, WORCA has been an effective advocacy group for mountain biking, boosted by its large number of members. WORCA will also continue to offer a wide range of races and clinics to its members.

"We have a full calendar of 20 Loonie Race events this year, and our sponsors won’t have to worry about things like insurance. (Membership) also includes the Wednesday night Fat Tire downhill series, the West Side Wheel Up, the Samurai of Singeltrack, our freeride clinics, and our youth dirt camps. It’s looking like it could be one of our biggest years ever."

WORCA members also receive a $50 discount off a Whistler Mountain Bike Park pass, as well as other discounts for races and clinics. As well, the group is looking for new ways to give members greater value.

For the past three seasons, WORCA has signed up more than 1,000 members. Although there is some concern that a higher price to join might discourage some people, Watton is confident that most WORCA members will be supportive.

"I think most people will recognize that this is an insurance thing, not a WORCA thing. If we were going to charge more for memberships, we’d rather see the extra money go towards trails than insurance, but that’s the reality of 2004," he said.

WORCA is holding a meeting for Loonie Race sponsors at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 16 at the Brew House. Any businesses or groups that want to sponsor a race this year are invited to come out to secure dates, and form partnerships with others to defray the costs.

It costs $50 to sponsor a Loonie race, but that includes two full memberships this year instead of one.

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