By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: May 10, 2017
Squamish council has approved $10,000 from the council contingency budget to contribute to Western Canadian Mountain Bike Tourism Association’s study of the impact of mountain bike tourism in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
Western Canada MBTA first conducted such a study in 2006, studying the economic impact that mountain biking had for Squamish, Whistler and North Shore communities. The results of that study has led to further investment in trails and tourism infrastructure in the region over the past decade even as mountain bike tourism has increased, said Martin Littlejohn, the executive director of MTBA.
“We believe that the results of this study will provide useful information for community planning decisions and help support trail development and maintenance programs in future,” he said.
For the latest study, the MTBA did surveys of the riders at key trail network access points over the course of last summer. Demographic information, riding preferences and actual spending information was collect from over 1000 visiting mountain bikers in the region. Volume estimates were generated using a combination of trail counters, surveyor observations and ride log data. The idea behind the study, Littlejohn said, is to conduct a follow up of the previous study and find out how much growth in mountain biking trails and the kind of economic impact that has generated in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
A similar study conducted by Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association showed mountain biking enthusiasts pumped close to $4 million in the local economy in 2013. SORCA president Jeff Cooke says these studies are “incredibly useful” in quantifying the contribution that mountain biking and the trail infrastructure make to the town, and that in turn helps SORCA secure funding for trail maintenance.
“Our 2013 study showed direct spending by tourists who came to Squamish to mountain bike was about $3.5MM over 6 months. This demonstrated a massive return on investment for the Community Enhancement Grant that SORCA received from the DOS and justified increasing that over the past few years. It also helps us secure sponsors because we are able to quantify the number of visitors and show where they are spending their money,” Cooke said.
Cooke said that Squamish’s trail infrastructure is undervalued. He said many people and even elected representatives often perceive the trails to be “free” as they are unable to perceive the huge investment of time and money needed to build the trail infrastructure.
“We currently have 178km of single track trails around Squamish, almost all of which have been built by volunteers or significantly reduced rates from our awesome local professional trail builders. If you are a private enterprise building a bike park with a trail network, you are paying about $70 per metre. That puts the value of our 178km of trail at about $13 million,” he said.
Considering the amount of money mountain biking tourists spend in town, biking trails is the kind of infrastructure that should be encouraged and supported, he added.