After four years of decline, the membership for the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association is nearing the record set in 1998 when there were more than 1,000 members on the register. With months to go before the season is over, WORCA currently has 975 members up from 570 last year.
WORCA president Tony Horn attributes a large part of that growth to the groups partnership with Whistler-Blackcomb, whereby members receive $10 off the cost of a day pass to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, plus discounts on summer seasons passes, camps, retail and rentals with their benefits cards.
"A lot of our success this year has to do with the success of the bike park, its just been a huge bonus for new members and the people who would have joined anyway," he says.
The social aspect of the club, notably the weekly Loonie Races, is also having an impact on the club membership. Turnout to events this year is almost double compared to last year, with more than 300 riders at some races.
"The credit for that has to go with the Loonie Race sponsors who are doing a good job putting on fun events that everybody is getting into," Horn says. "I also think a lot of the freeriders in town are realizing that you dont have to ride hair ball all the time. Sometimes its good to just go out and ride the local trails with your friends."
Mountain bike skills camps for adults and children that are open to members only have also been successful draws this season, according to Horn.
In the past WORCA was concerned that people tended to look at WORCA as a group that organizes races and clinics.
Now Horn says the word is finally out that the group is also responsible for a large part of the trail maintenance in the valley, and for trail advocacy through its relationship with the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
This year WORCAs $8,000 maintenance contract was granted to Chris Markle and Ted Battison.
"Its just been awesome this year. You can see their work on River, the North Secret Trail, Kill Me Thrill Me, all over the valley," says Horn.
WORCA has also received a $2,500 grant from the Whistler-Blackcomb Environmental Fund to restore the popular Train Wreck trail.
The municipality also recently received official provincial sanctioning for an epic trail that will run from Wedgemont Road to Lost Lake Park.
Local trail builder Markle, working on his own, recently completed the north section, which is called North Secret Trail. He has also completed a large section of the south end of the trail, which is being called Foreplay. Markle will name the entire trail, which is expected to be around 24 kilometres in length once it is completed, possibly by next season.