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Whistler business seeks donations for refugees overseas

Big Mountain Bike Adventures signs deal with US-based Trek Travel

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Throughout his travels with his business Big Mountain Bike Adventures, Whistlerite Chris Winter has seen a lot of opportunities to help.

"It's always on my radar that we go to a lot of developing countries and we ride their trails, and of course we support their economy — we hire local drivers and the hotels and guides and so on — but it always weighs on my mind that we're not doing as much as we can," Winter said.

In researching a new addition to his offerings — an island-hopping bike trip in the Mediterranean — Winter discovered an unsettling connection.

One of the islands on the itinerary is Kos — the same island three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi was trying to reach with his family after leaving Turkey last September.

The image of Kurdi's body laying face down on a Turkish beach made international headlines and spurred an immense call for action in support of refugees.

"It just changed my whole perspective about the trip, because I'm a humanitarian and I do have a heart for people that don't have what we have," Winter said. "Here we are arriving from our town of Whistler, which is like Never Never Land, on our $10,000 carbon bikes, you know?"

Winter tried to leverage the charitable status of Zero Ceiling — which he founded in Whistler in 1997 — to get his baggage waived so he could take donations to refugees overseas, but ran into some red tape with the airlines.

With his trip fast approaching he's had to scale down his charitable ambitions, but still hopes to take some donations with him when he leaves on April 9.

"I'm still doing a Facebook campaign here in town to try and get some items," he said. "I've been in touch with NGOs that are working on these islands, and they provided a specific list of what these people need."

Winter is asking anyone with new or lightly used women's shoes sized 4.5 to 7, men's shoes sized 7 to 10, men's underwear and socks (new), backpacks, rain ponchos or rain jackets to contact him at chris@ridebig.com as soon as possible.

"If (the airlines) would have hopped on board I would have perhaps done something a little more, a bigger movement to try to help, but at this point I'm just going to pay for an extra duffle bag or two, depending on how much I get, and bring it over," Winter said.

As his business grows, Winter keeps exploring opportunities to give back. He's currently looking at a company called World Bicycle Relief, which provides bikes to people in underdeveloped regions of the world. His plan is to donate a portion of the proceeds from his trips to the company.

And in late March, Big Mountain Bike Adventures announced a new partnership with Wisconsin-based Trek Travel to operate tours in Iceland, Peru, Switzerland and here in the Sea to Sky Corridor.

"We're a small business and we're definitely a really niche product, and it's just very, very exciting to be running trips for this company," Winter said.

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