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Tough Mudder fills resort

Pre-registration already underway for 2013, though date may change

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The strolls, hotels and eateries of Whistler weren't exactly full the fourth weekend in June last year.

But fast forward to the fourth weekend of June this year and it was a whole different story.

There is strong evidence to suggest Tough Mudder, a mass participation event that brought tens of thousands to Whistler to take part or watch, had a "significant" impact on accommodation levels in the resort last weekend, said Breton Murphy, Tourism Whistler's director of partnerships.

"The same weekend last summer, for Friday and Saturday, occupancy was hovering around 60 per cent," he said. Final numbers aren't available yet but Murphy said it looked like at least 90 per cent of the resort hotel rooms were booked.

"When you look at such a stark difference between last year and the same weekend this year there's no doubt that this event had a very significant impact on visitation."

With early reports suggesting the event was a success discussions are already under way to bring back the event for 2013 and even beyond.

However, a change of dates may be in the cards. Tough Mudder officials are looking at August 10 and 11 rather than the June weekend with pre-registration already being accepted on the event's website.

"We won't be able to talk to you about it until contracts are signed," said Tough Mudder communications manager Jane Di Leo.

Tourism Whistler's Murphy said June is the perfect month for Tough Mudder and he would rather stick with an early summer date. The timing of the event next year, he added, would be discussed in a debriefing meeting.

"June is a great time for us because it is not a peak period. We've got the capacity in June," said Murphy.

Tough Mudder fits well with what Whistler is about and it attracted a demographic that worked for the resort.

"Events like this, of this genre, we're hoping to see some additional growth for us moving forward," said Murphy.

Part of that growth is catering not just to the competitors, but the spectators who come as well.

Highway 99 was busy throughout the weekend and the Whistler Farmer's Market was filled with shoppers, many of them wearing the Tough Mudder shirts and headbands given to all those who completed the event.

Farmer's Market Manager Chris Quinlan said he worked long hours at Black's Pub, where he is also the general manger, because the pub was busier than usual. He said his pub was filled with Tough Mudder participants.

Zogs Dogs had line-ups till dawn and Moguls Coffee House stayed open later too. And it continued into Sunday with most eateries enjoying a brisk breakfast business well into the day.

"Tough Mudder took the tough out of June," said Quinlan.

Said Angie Fulton of Zogs: "We were stacked to the rafters with people and almost all were Tough Mudder people or spectators of Tough Mudder.

"Both (Zogs and Moguls) were running out of food."

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she spoke with a number of retailers who reported business being up by 20 per cent compared to the same period last year.

"So far I have not heard any negative feedback whatsoever, so if they (Tough Mudder) would like to come back to Whistler, Whistler would love to welcome them back," Wilhem-Morden said.

Sergeant Eric Rochette of the Whistler RCMP, who was on shift through the weekend, said there were few problems associated with the event.

"I spoke with the event organizers afterwards and I told them it was very well organized," said Rochette.

Di Leo said more than 16,000 people took part in the event at Whistler Olympic Park (WOP). There were no major injuries and the Tough Mudder staff members dealt with the challenges that came up over the course of the weekend, she said.

"It is tough and the mountain adds different types of elevation and terrain that is difficult and challenging for participants," said Di Leo.

Lindsay Durno, director at WOP, while satisfied with how the Tough Mudder went said there are a few things on his list to improve upon. Parking and shuttle services went well, but he noted that WOP could handle more vehicles next year through more efficient parking. He also said iPhone users had trouble communicating while those with Blackberries had fewer problems sending messages or making calls from their devices at the peak period on Saturday. It is unclear what caused that situation.

Still, he said: "It was a perfect two days all around," pointing out that Tough Mudder was the biggest event held at WOP since the Winter Olympic Games in 2010 when it hosted the Nordic events.

The weather cooperated perfectly for the participants said organizers with rain Friday night giving way to a mix of sun and cloud Saturday and Sunday. Temperatures hovered between 15 and 18 degrees.

The Mudder wasn't just a success for organizers. Participants enjoyed it as well.

Twins Hailey and Ashley Melvin of Port Coquitlam came up for the weekend as part of an eight-member team made up of a group of their City of Port Coquitlam co-workers.

"We thought it would be a bonding experience," said Ashley.

Their teammate and co-worker Peter Burn said he loved it despite how tough it was.

"I loved it, it was a little tough but it was good," said Burn.

Tough Mudder has grown to be an international series with competitions in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, South Africa and Japan. Canadian stops this summer include Calgary and Montreal in July then Toronto in August. Seattle will host Tough Mudder at the end of September.

(See page 68 for the event in pictures and a first-hand account)

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