"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I have faith in the future of the human race."
- HG Wells
Last month, the federal government started doling out money for tourism events. Mega bucks for mega-big events. $140 million was earmarked over two years for marquee tourism events and the PNE, the Calgary Stampede, the Ottawa Bluesfest and the Montreal Jazz Festival were amongst those to receive multi-million dollar boosts.
The 2009 Economic Stimulus Package also created a $25 million trails fund, which just contributed grants of $70,000 and $55,000 (in matching funds, thereby doubling the ultimate budgets) to the Pemberton Valley Trails Association and the Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association for ambitious trail-building projects that will boost the lure of both communities to bike tourists.
The feds have realized what corridor communities have long known - that special events drive tourist visits, raise a community's image and profile, and inject measurable economic benefits; that the bike experience is a destination-driver; and that the fastest and most measurable way to provide a boost in a softening economy is with a party.
Here in the Sea to Sky corridor, bike + festival + summer are the magic ingredients that mash-up into our own marquee experiences - self-defining events that have put Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish on the map.
Crankworx, a loud and proud homage to gravity and freeride glory, kicks off on Aug. 8, and its nine-day high-test fest is part of the reason that mountain biking has now surpassed golf as the key driver for summer room nights in Whistler.
As it revolves to a stop, Pemberton pedals its signature bike event into gear. The yin to Crankworx's yang, Slow Food Cycle Sunday on Aug. 16, offers a slow and self-propelled cruise along a flat valley road to sample local agriculture offerings, from Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef burgers to tastings from the first batch of Schramm organic potato vodka.
And in Squamish, the 35 test pilots behind the Test of Metal (and its Triple Crown Series siblings, the Ore Crusher and GearJammer), can take a breather for a few minutes, before they start directing their attention to the 2010 series.
The positive impacts of these events is quantifiable: Crankworx attracts 55,000 unique visitors and injects $11.5 million in non-resident expenditures. The Test of Metal brings in almost $1 million in direct economic benefit, and its 800 rider spots sell out within minutes. Slow Food Cycle Sunday has grown over four years to attract 2,300 participants (the equivalent population of the town of Pemberton), and yield an estimated $250,000 contribution directly into the local economy.