Sea to Sky Mountain Biking Economic Impact Study
This study found that mountain biking generates significant new spending in the communities of Whistler, Squamish, and the North Shore near Vancouver, British Columbia, all internationally-known mountain biking destinations. These communities all draw non-local visitors and spending, but the economic impact associated with the resort and bike park at Whistler and the multi-day Crankworkx Mountain Bike Festival at the resort far eclipse the impact in the other communities.
This study demonstrates the range of economic impact that occurs even among communities that cater to the same trail use within a relatively small region. The authors used a scientific sampling approach to gather data from trail users and event participants, which means their findings well-represent the average trail user. Some of the expenditure data still may be too high as the study includes one-time spending on large purchases such as bicycles.
The study is based in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor in British Columbia, which includes Whistler, Squamish, and the North Shore (North Vancouver and West Vancouver).
The trail systems in these communities are internationally-known mountain biking destinations, include hundreds of kilometers of trails and several bike parks, and are hosts to international events. The bike park in Whistler is the most-visited in North America.
The purpose of this study is to quantify the economic impact of mountain biking for communities, and for tourism organizations, that hope to use this information in justifying investment in trails and setting trail management policies. Although mountain biking was known to be an economic driver in the area, the impacts were only anecdotal prior to this analysis. The study was conducted by the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association (MBTA).
- There were an estimated 18,660 riders per week on the North Shore, 8,910 riders per week in Squamish, and 25,695 riders per week on Whistler trails. There were an additional 76,671 riders per week at the Whistler Bike Park.
- The mix of resident and non-resident trail users varied between communities, although the proportion of non-residents was higher than the authors expected in all communities. In Whistler, three-quarters of respondents were non-residents, on the North Shore two-thirds were non-residents, and in Squamish half were non-residents.
- The proportion of respondents staying overnight also varied by community. On the North Shore, 9 percent stayed overnight, and spent an average of 6.3 nights. In Squamish, 21 percent of respondents stayed overnight and spent an average of 3.6 nights. In Whistler, 90 percent of respondents stayed overnight and spent an average of 4.5 nights.
- Expenditures for single day users ranged from C$39 per day on the North Shore to C$92 per day in Squamish. The high reported spending in Squamish is attributed to bike purchases.
- Expenditures for overnight users ranged from C$48 per day on the North Shore to C$93 at Whistler.
- Trails in Squamish are associated with $1.7 million in new spending per year.
- Trails on the North Shore are associated with $2.0 million in new spending per year.
- Trails at Whistler are associated with $6.6 million in new spending per year.
- The Whistler Bike Park is associated with $16.5 million in new spending per year.
- The Test of Metal race is associated with $400,000 of new spending in Squamish per year.
- The Crankworx Festival at Whistler is associated with $11.5 million in new spending per year.
The authors collected data related to three sources of economic impact: general trail users, participants and spectators at events, and bike shops. Data were collected between July and September, 2007.
The authors estimated trail use using automatic trail counters. These estimates were verified with data from trail user surveys.
General trail users were surveyed using a scientific sampling plan that ensured that different parts of each trail system were surveyed at different times of the day and week. The authors approached 1,173 riders who had not been previously interviewed, and interviewed a total of 1,019 riders (87% response rate).
Data for event participants were gathered at the Test of Metal race in Squamish and data for event spectators were gathered at the Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival in Whistler. Respondents were asked about their length of stay and expenditures, and participants in the Test of Metal were asked about pre-event expenditures as many participants train in the area prior to the race. The response rate was 21 percent at the Test of Metal, and was not calculated for Crankworx. The authors collected 421 completed surveys from Test of Metal and 487 completed surveys from Crankworx.
Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association. 2007. Sea to Sky Mountain Biking Economic Impact Study.