Sea to sky

MTB Money: Sea-to-Sky Economic Survey

Words Cam McRae
Date Sep 5, 2018

You likely aren't shocked to hear that not everyone wants mountain biking to be more popular. In fact I used to be that guy. Crowded trails aren't awesome, particularly when there is some jackass dragging brakes down your favourite line. And when popular means trendy, it brings all sorts of people I'd rather not be around. Or at least that's how it used to be...

North Shore

Despite my inner curmudgeon I've come to recognize how more people mountain biking can benefit even those who have been riding since the early days. Unless you are Dangerous Dan or his ilk bemoaning the loss of skinnies 12 feet off the deck, it's obvious the trails on the North Shore (and in the entire region I'd wager) are better than they have ever been. I also contend that mountain biking makes humans better; more resilient, more aware of the fragility and sweetness of nature and more likely to help others in times of need. It pretty much makes you a god-damned saint. Congratulations for being awesome. And for saving the world. 


Popularity of course has shown us the money. More funding has put professional trail builders to work, both by landowners and riding associations, alongside traditional volunteer labour. New trail "experiences" like Lord of the Squirrels in Whistler would not happen without financial support, and that support wouldn't happen without the cash money trails bring. More riders = more benefit = more trails in better shape. More rad "experiences."


Pemberton isn't experiencing the growth the rest of the reason has seen, despite having incredible trail quality. 

Simply talking about the fat stacks mountain bikers bring throw down is of little use. Decision makers love data so the Western Mountain Bike Tourism Association (WMBTA) went mining for some hard numbers. In 2006 counters were set up on trails and those numbers were used to estimate the number of rides and the number of riders. Data was collected between June and Labour Day, the busiest time of the year, so those numbers would have a generous margin of error. In 2016 the numbers came from Trail Forks. The rest of the info came from hundreds of interviews at various trailheads at each location.


The bike park has made some gains, but not compared to the "XC" riding around the valley which has surged over 200%.

In 2006 the trails on the Shore were getting a little stagnant. Trail maintenance had no chance of keeping up with the ridership, despite it being a small fraction of what it is today, and trail choice for beginners or even intermediate riders was abysmal. The hard work of the NSMBA as well as Trail Adoption Program (TAP) sponsors and volunteers have turned that around. New riders now have a few choices and the trail variety has improved vastly. The word has spread and riders who used to cruise by the North Shore on the way to Whistler might stick around for a day or two. The same goes for Squamish which now has one of the very best trail networks in the world. If you can't find something you like in Squamish you aren't a mountain biker. Whistler keeps doing its thing in the bike park, but word has gotten out about the riding out side the park, thanks in part to the Enduro World Series, and that visitor segment has exploded, even when compared to bike park traffic. 

Survey Results

Conclusions - things look pretty good. 

Overall 2

Growth has likely continued in the two years since the results were collected. 

Trails don't fix themselves. Just ask your local trail builder. An interesting aspect of this survey is that it reveals that there is a significant amount of traffic generated by those from outside these riding areas. And while they bring economic benefit to local businesses and employees, much of the maintenance burden is shouldered by volunteers. There aren't many effective ways of extracting a contribution from visiting riders, although some conscientious riders join organizations like the NSMBA on the North Shore, SORCA in Squamish, WORCA in Whistler and PORCA  (I shit you not) in Pemberton. If you are visiting a riding area your karma will expand dramatically if you buck up even a little. 

For more detail about each of these riding areas as well as a few other similar studies from elsewhere, click here...

Tags: News
Posted in: Industry News, News, Features

Trending on NSMB


+2 Mammal AlanB
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 5, 2018, 12:51 p.m.

Turns out mountain biking is big business, and a huge revenue driver for the province. And many individual municipalities. 



+5 Mammal Cooper Quinn Cr4w Todd Hellinga Tim Coleman
kekoa  - Sept. 5, 2018, 2:37 p.m.

I'm sitting in a rented condo in Whistler reading this. It's Day Four with five days left for us to ride, eat, shop and act like teenage boys. Fifth time we've made this annual trip. We come for the valley trails vs. the park, so as a visitor, please keep it up!


+2 Cr4w Todd Hellinga
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 5, 2018, 3:11 p.m.

Or, better yet, buy a membership! 

Think of all the money you DIDN'T spend in the park!


+3 Todd Hellinga Cooper Quinn Tim Coleman
kekoa  - Sept. 5, 2018, 9:54 p.m.

Done! The shops in the village are totally cleaned out so not buying too much so got some extra money.


Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 6, 2018, 11:10 a.m.

Right on! 

Now come ride the Shore - you probably flew in here and drove right by!


kekoa  - Sept. 6, 2018, 9:15 p.m.

We've talked about it. Haven't figured how to build the bikes and deal with the cases and luggage...


+1 Cr4w
AlanB  - Sept. 5, 2018, 10:22 p.m.

This is all I talk about with DWV. Huge potential at Cypress Village, but it's not going to be easy to bring riders back to Cypress.

In 2006 the distribution of riders between Cypress, Fromme and Seymour was roughly 1:1:1. In 2016 for every rider on Cypress, Seymour has 4 and Fromme has 5!


+2 AlanB Cooper Quinn
Cr4w  - Sept. 6, 2018, 8:08 a.m.

Cypress doesn't have the revitalized scene that some of the other spots have to entice the new crop of riders. Wasn't there a conversation about a climbing trail and Half Nelson style trail under the Cypress power lines? Between those, a nice road for shuttling the gnar and then a village at the bottom to grab a beer I would think Cypress is about to get a lot more attention? What about the talk of a gondola?


Jeronimo  - Sept. 6, 2018, 3 p.m.

As an annual visitor to the Sea2Sky, we come for the advanced ride!  Things have changed, big time.  The Shore is easy trails now and Squamish is more black diamond (Pleasure/Treasure/Grinchy, etc). So when you say it's better than ever, it depends where you go and if you are new rider or expert. More paving on the Shore so you can see where all the money is going but sure beginner riders love it.


AlanB  - Sept. 6, 2018, 8:17 p.m.

Have you ridden Cypress? It's maintaining its reputation as the gnarliest of the North Shore mountains.


+1 Niels
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 6, 2018, 10:18 p.m.

If you think the Shore is all easy now..... um.... well, I'm not exactly sure where you're riding. Yes, there are easier trails now. But.... 

There's plenty of gnar to go around. Lemme know next time you're around and we can go for a tour...


Sven Luebke  - Sept. 9, 2018, 4:21 a.m.

“Mountain biking” in the corner of Austria that I’m currently in consists of pedalling on logging roads, gravel paths or poaching hiking trails through cow pastures.   There’s also a bike park that has one long flow trail witha ski lift where the DH crowd hangs thier Leatt braces. 

However, the top of the mountain here is +1300 m vertical from our house and has a patio restaurant (read beer on tap) and 100+ km of Alpine (capital Alps) views on top from 1800 m elevation  

I have a new appreciation for e-bikes. The conventional pedal up would not have left the energy to complete the 38 km ride that climbed the equivalent of Lions Gate Bridge to Brockton Peak on Seymour, then bombing down Mushroom trail or Incline.

In terms of mountain bike specific trails, sea to sky region is heaven on earth.


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