About a decade ago, the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) had a bit of an image problem. People in town associated the mountain bike club with their weekly Toonie Rides, rather than the organizations' other activities like advocating for trail access, trail maintenance and developing the sport.
Getting an annual membership was for people who raced rather than for people who supported the trails.
WORCA has worked hard to change that, and looking at the numbers at this years' annual general meeting on Sept. 29, it appears that they've succeeded.
"The struggle 10 years ago was to get people to sign up for reasons other than Loonies, and this is the year that it looks like we've finally done it," said race director Tony Horn, pointing to the number of riders that signed up for events like Betty vs. Veronica, the Phat/PhaSt Wednesday Downhill Series, Monday Night Rides and programs like the youth dirt camps.
Membership hit a record of over 1,570 this year, about 50 more than last year, yet Toonie Ride numbers are generally down - 3,400 riders this season over 20 races, compared to a record of roughly 5,000 riders over 21 races in 2007.
"We're so balanced now, it's amazing," said Horn.
Rocky start to the season
No question that it was a strange year for the club, at least until the bike season finally got underway.
The snowfall in the valley delayed the start of the Toonie Ride season for a week and trail maintenance season even longer, and the group came into the season under the shadow of a lawsuit - and the revelation that their insurance broker in 2009, the season the accident occurred, neglected to actually file their $30,000 liability insurance policy. With no insurance backing the club the suit was dropped at the start of May, but it was a stressful spring and winter for board members who didn't know what the outcome would be.
Director of youth Craig MacKenzie, who took on the insurance issue, stressed that WORCA had no warning that they were not insured - for every race they requested and received insurance certificates for their sponsors and they filed all the appropriate paperwork.
The board was able to continue as always with a better - and cheaper - insurance policy going forward, although with a few changes. There's far more paperwork required, and rates are based on a user-based model rather than the number of members. WORCA now counts participants in every event - trail maintenance days, camps and clinics, Toonie Rides, Monday Night Rides, etc. - to come up with a total number of users. The total insurance bill for that number of users is now $17,000 for liability, almost half of what it was.