Pemberton is on track to become a hub of national and international paragliding events with the community winning the 2012 Canadian National Paragliding Championships this coming August.
Jim Orava made a presentation at the Village of Pemberton council meeting on Tuesday, March 6, telling councillors that hosting the week-long event from Aug. 5 to 12 — one of two similar but separately organized events this summer — has been approved by the national paragliding body, the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada, and that he still hopes to expand it into an international competition backed by the World Flight Federation.
Orava, lead operator of Cayoosh Expeditions Inc., told council he expected at least 100 paragliders to fly above Pemberton Valley that week, completing various flying tasks to gain points in a timed competition over the region's complex terrain. At a recent event in Mexico, competitors were often seconds apart after three or four hours of flying, he said.
"We literally have the people who wrote the book on the sport coming here," he said.
Orava's presentation was to request council support, making the financial and tourism case by comparing the impact and popularity of similar events in Europe and South America. Expanding the event to encompass international participants over two weeks "would bring 400 well-heeled visitors here for two weeks of events."
Already, 70 participants from 12 countries have signed up to take part, coming from as far away as Germany, Australia and Ecuador.
"We're well ahead of the game (in terms of taking the event to the international level), and it looks like we'll fill up," Orava said.
The organizers made requests that included: use of the picnic area near Pemberton Airport, nearby space for parking, use of the north-east taxiway and access to the terminal building and water supply. They also wanted to see road access improved.
When asked about the appeal of Pemberton for such an event by Mayor Jordan Sturdy, Orava referred to the stunningly sunny day outside.
"When you come here, especially on a day like today... it's so incredibly wild and if you come from Europe that is a big thing, the fact that they could be eaten in the wilderness by a grizzly; it adds a little spice," Orava joked.
In terms of safety and backcountry considerations, he added that all competitors are insured and have radio access, and many have location devices. The experience at this level is also high, with competitors looking out for each other and knowing what to do. Talks with search and rescue organizers are forthcoming, Orava said.
Councillor Ted Craddock said it would be a great opportunity for the community that could showcase local businesses and the valley's organic farms. Orava responded by saying they would be seeking community participation to broaden the event outside the competition.
Support for the event was given unanimously by council with staff directed to report on logistical details of hosting the event in April.
The Canadian National Hang Gliding Championships are also scheduled for Pemberton from Aug. 12 to 18.
Pemberton supports Whistler's liquor licence findings
Daniel Sailland, the chief administration officer for the Village of Pemberton, reported to council on the results of the Resort Municipality of Whistler's Special Occasion License Working Group (SOLWG) and its potential impact on events in Pemberton that require temporary liquor licenses. A 30-page report of SOLWG's findings was presented.
Pemberton has been working with authorities including the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) since the Pemberton Festival in 2008 to look at the current regulations, which Sailland said put Pemberton at a competitive disadvantage.
"What I like about the (SOLWG) resolution (stemming from the report) is that it's got a high likelihood of success with the UCBM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) and could be seen as applicable throughout the province," Sailland said.
Council support was given to the findings of the SOLWG following a small wording amendment, with the suggestion that provisions of particular interest to Pemberton be tabled at some future date.