A state of affairs simmering for the previous yr boiled over remaining week after the UTMB Global Collection and the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Lodge collectively introduced a brand new race, the Extremely Path Whistler by way of UTMB, debuting in September 2024, in Whistler, British Columbia.
This announcement got here 8 and a part months following the arguable cancellation of any other tournament, Whistler Alpine Meadows. That tournament, which came about in the similar location and in the similar month, was once run by way of an area Canadian race group, Coast Mountain Path Operating.
Gary Robbins and Geoff Langford, longtime path runners, co-owners of Coast Mountain Path Operating, and co-race administrators of the now defunct Whistler Alpine Meadows, are publicly wondering the processes and ethics of the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Lodge and the UTMB Global Collection.
Each organizations stand in the back of their movements. In the meantime, tens of hundreds of path runners, from western Canada to all over the world, are siding with Robbins and Langford.
Right here’s a tale that reads like a path operating model of the David and Goliath parable.
The Whistler Alpine Meadows Is Completely Canceled in February 2023
In September 2022, the Whistler Alpine Meadows (WAM) tournament came about within the top mountains of Whistler, British Columbia. Athletes competed in large part throughout the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Lodge, which is owned and operated by way of Vail Hotels.
Placed on by way of Coast Mountain Path Operating, the 6th version of the development had 5 race distances as much as 100 miles in duration and drew about 950 athletes from nearly a dozen nations. After the of completion of the three-day operating tournament, the race group regarded ahead to making plans for 2023.
However in February 2023, Coast Mountain Path Operating introduced in a commentary that WAM would now not happen.
“We will be able to now not be pursuing any longer occasions throughout the [Whistler] township going ahead … There’s merely no trail ahead for us to supply races of this magnitude, alongside the alpine terrain throughout the confines of Whistler,” the group introduced.
The Extremely Path Whistler by way of UTMB Is Introduced in October 2023
In October 2023, some 8 and a part months following the announcement of the everlasting cancellation of WAM, the UTMB Global Collection — co-operated by way of the UTMB Workforce and The Ironman Workforce — introduced the Extremely Path Whistler by way of UTMB (UT Whistler) race, scheduled to happen once a year in September.
“The UTMB Global Collection is heading to Canada for the first-time subsequent yr, with the affirmation that the breathtaking alpine playground of Whistler and the encircling Sea-to-Sky hall in British Columbia will host a brand-new tournament … on September 28-29, 2024,” learn the click unencumber. “3 race distances of 100 [kilometers], 50km and 25km will take runners on a adventure that highlights the most productive of Whistler and its surrounding trails.”
The clicking unencumber quoted Whistler Blackcomb leader running officer Belinda Trembath, who showed the hotel as host: “We’re extremely joyful to function co-host of the Canadian prevent at the UTMB Global Collection circuit.”
The Processes and Ethics of Whistler Blackcomb Ski Lodge Are Referred to as Into Query
Hours after the UT Whistler announcement, Robbins revealed a candid weblog put up, alleging Whistler Blackcomb Ski Lodge of deliberately pushing WAM out in overdue 2022 and early 2023.
In interviews with iRunFar, Robbins stated that WAM and Whistler Blackcomb had a traditionally just right running courting. However he additionally famous that this courting deteriorated within the fall of 2022 when WAM’s new touch at Whistler Blackcomb merely stopped speaking.
“The former user accountable for occasions [before 2022] was once a dream to paintings with, however he now not works for Vail Hotels,” stated Robbins. “His alternative was once the exact opposite. I feel the toughest factor about it for us was once that he very a lot made us really feel like we have been being supported, nevertheless it wasn’t adopted via by way of him at any level thereafter. And it was once disingenuous all of the time.”
Following the September 2022, WAM, Robbins stated their Whistler Blackcomb touch alluded to problems they must paintings via for long term occasions. However that preliminary comments to the WAM group by way of their Whistler Blackcomb touch was once adopted by way of months of close to radio silence, stated Robbins.
“He stood us up on a couple of booked conferences and it bled over daily, week after week. Earlier than we knew it, we had misplaced 3 months of simply seeking to get fundamental solutions from this user,” stated Robbins.
“[Whistler Blackcomb] knew that we had a drop-dead date of January 1, 2023, [for getting permitted, so that we could sustainably organize the September race], and we driven that to February 1. Once we after all were given any individual to place some stuff in entrance folks [in late January and early February], they introduced a completely other allowing software procedure than we’d noticed prior to. It was once prohibitive, but additionally nonetheless one thing that we have been going to paintings our manner via. They wouldn’t let us even speak about [promote] the race till that procedure was once entire. And at that time we’d be to this point into the yr, it might be unattainable to transport ahead with such a lot of uncertainties nonetheless in position.”
Handshake-style agreements between allowing entities and tournament administrators aren’t unusual in longer-term running relationships. That is the place a allowing entity lets in an tournament director to development with making plans and selling an tournament prior to a allow is secured, generally as a result of bureaucratic processes can transfer slowly. Whilst Robbins stated he and different allowing entities for his industry’s different occasions paintings via handshake-style agreements, it kind of feels Whistler Blackcomb would now not.
Robbins additionally defined that as a part of the ones overdue January and early February 2023, conversations, Whistler Blackcomb stated it might simplest allow two of WAM’s earlier 5 race distances, the ascent and 25k races. In line with Robbins, Whistler Blackcomb additionally stated the 25k route would want to be redesigned.
Lowering the scope of the development by way of such a lot, stated Robbins, “was once now not a sustainable fashion for those occasions on this the city.”
Whistler Blackcomb declined an interview with iRunFar, however launched the next written commentary in line with this war:
“What this comes right down to is we merely weren’t glad or ok with how Whistler Alpine Meadows deliberate to deal with issues of safety from the race the yr prior. We will be able to now not compromise on security as it’s our primary precedence, and we will have to be aware that our security protocols and insurance policies have now not modified considerably yr over yr. We weren’t prepared to transport ahead with the 2023 race with out an ok security and scientific plan, and WAM was once unwilling to paintings with us in this.
“To the problem of verbal exchange, we take responsibility that we didn’t keep in touch as successfully as we will have to have, and for this, we ask for forgiveness. We’re dedicated to advanced verbal exchange with all companions. We’re pleased with our lengthy historical past of webhosting all kinds of occasions and teams of a wide variety that give a boost to our neighborhood and our tradition, and that make stronger what makes Whistler particular. We’re dedicated to proceeding this custom and sit up for webhosting long term occasions and races at Whistler Blackcomb.
“The verdict to cancel Whistler Alpine Meadows was once made by way of race organizers in February 2023. Whistler Blackcomb was once open to running with them on a revised plan that may adequately meet the logistical and security wishes of a race of its dimension and scope as a way to convey it again. They declined and moved on. Over the summer time, we won a brand new inquiry from UTMB about bringing its Global Collection circuit to Whistler. Path operating lovers, native companies and the neighborhood at huge stand to take pleasure in this world-class tournament.”
Robbins refuted Whistler Blackcomb’s reaction, and stated extra was once at play than simply deficient verbal exchange and converting procedures.
Langford stated in an interview, “We weren’t acutely aware of anything else important, safety- or medical-wise [taking place during the 2022 WAM]. Our post-race scientific studies confirmed simplest the standard minor problems from an extremely, and we have been by no means given the chance to debrief with the Whistler Blackcomb patrol group who have been at the mountain as a part of the development all weekend.”
Robbins concluded, “My industry spouse [Langford] has been within the business for 1 / 4 century, and arranged the journey racing global championships twenty years in the past. Now we have labored with Pink Bull and Spartan on contracts over time. Whilst we’re a small entity, this isn’t our first rodeo, and my spouse has extra revel in in allows in particular than anyone I do know. It’s disheartening that [Whistler Blackcomb] helps to keep coming again to this unfounded level that we didn’t observe via on our finish, and we have been the explanation that we selected to depart the neighborhood of Whistler for those races.”
The Processes and Ethics of the UTMB Global Collection Are Additionally Wondered
Robbins additionally wrote in his weblog put up about how Coast Mountain Path Operating had a dialogue with the UTMB Global Collection in regards to the collection obtaining certainly one of its different races on the identical time that WAM was once dissolving:
“In 2021 … we have been contacted by the use of the IM-UTMB team about probably obtaining our Squamish 50 races. [These races are based in Squamish, British Columbia, located about an hour’s drive south of Whistler.] I stated we weren’t and we moved on. Three hundred and sixty five days later, in 2022 they reached out a 2d time … We determined … that we’d as neatly pay attention them out. We signed an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] and had a unmarried Zoom assembly with them.”
Robbins elaborated in this in an interview, and stated his industry was once then in persevered, open discussion with The Ironman Workforce in regards to the doable acquisition from overdue 2022 via overdue Might 2023.
He defined, “As a part of that dialog, we supplied all of them our interior main points for the Squamish 50. In doing this, we have been additionally [unknowingly] giving them an entire marketplace research on the identical time that they have been in communications with Vail Hotels to convey a race to existence [in Whistler,] necessarily that at the actual terrain that we have been simply driven off of.”
Robbins stated it was once in overdue Might 2023, when The Ironman Workforce put a cling on talks about that acquire.
In an interview with iRunFar, representatives of the UTMB Global Collection defined their model of the timeline on this war, which doesn’t totally align with that of Robbins.
Paul Huddle, the senior director of world path operating operations for The Ironman Workforce, stated, “I began speaking with Gary and Geoff in the midst of November remaining yr. We have been excited by their tournament, in particular the Squamish 50, they usually gave the impression excited by probably running with us.”
Persevered Huddle, ”In January of this yr, we as an organization, for a number of causes, put a cling on all acquisitions, so I notified Gary and Geoff and everyone else that we have been chatting with that that was once the case at the moment.”
The UTMB Global Collection maintains that the Squamish 50 acquisition dialog — and its finishing — had not anything to do with its exploration of a Whistler-based tournament.
“I feel it’s in reality vital to indicate that this has not anything to do with that state of affairs. That was once a state of affairs that any corporate is going via,” Huddle stated. “I feel in February, February 11, everybody noticed the scoop out of Whistler that they have been now not proceeding with that tournament [WAM] and it was once lovely emphatically mentioned by way of Gary that they have been out and not coming again. Keats [McGonigal, the vice president of North American operations for The Ironman Group] … is the fellow that holds the relationships [with the municipality] … in Whistler. So it was once like, ‘Oh wow, Keats, you will have to touch your pals and spot in the event that they’re excited by bringing a UTMB tournament to Whistler. There’s no race there now.’”
McGonigal defined the following a part of the timeline because the UTMB Global Collection sees it:
“During the spring and summer time, we had quite a lot of calls [with the three different leadership entities in Whistler, including the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort], with us sharing what we’re seeking to do in relation to increasing the [UTMB] Global Collection and coming into Canada … It was once in August we went for in-person conferences for a handful of days and mentioned classes, maps, layouts, designs, and get right of entry to to venues. All of the ones commonplace race operational conversations took place in August, which in the long run persevered alongside to our announcement.”
When requested if the UTMB Global Collection thought to be achieving out to Robbins, Langford, and the WAM group group as they started ideating UT Whistler, Huddle spoke back:
“What we like about Gary and Geoff and their occasions is that they’ve an excellent following. They have got nice occasions. That’s why we have been within the dialog [about an acquisition of the Squamish 50] first of all. However once more, for a number of causes, we have been now not in that dialog with any of the occasions as of January. When this chance got here up, we concept, ‘Wow, that is clearly a just right alternative to make use of the connections we have already got via Keats and Ironman Canada.’”
Huddle persevered, “Following their announcement in February, it gave the impression lovely transparent that they have been exiting and now not webhosting any occasions [in Whistler]. After that announcement, we noticed a void and had native relationships to test in with. I am getting it. I imply, it’s a neighborhood and this extremely is in response to neighborhood … I suppose it’s a just right level, and possibly this is an oversight. However on the identical time, we weren’t enthusiastic about their conversations with Whistler and wouldn’t have anticipated to be.”
The Path Operating Neighborhood Responds
What adopted the UT Whistler race announcement and Robbins’s weblog put up was once an enormous and emotionally charged reaction on-line by way of path runners domestically and globally, nearly universally in make stronger of Robbins and in opposition to UT Whistler.
Runners’ posts now quantity within the tens of hundreds throughout each main social media platform, together with Reddit, YouTube, Fb, Instagram, and in different places. Feedback have ranged from calling for a boycott of UT Whistler to wondering the presence of huge companies within the game of path operating.
For instance, commenting at the UT Whistler’s Instagram web page, Ems (@emmmmics) wrote, “As a Whistler native, this can be an enormous NO. I can NOT be racing, and I can NOT be volunteering for this … I foresee a boycott coming from runners in Whistler, the whole lot of the ocean to sky area, Vancouver, and the decrease mainland as neatly….”
Ellie Greenwood, Vancouver, British Columbia, resident, prior Western States 100 route file holder, and the 2012 CCC champion, wrote on her social media:
”Path and extremely runners. Our game is at a crossroads and it’s time to make a decision what you wish to have our game and neighborhood to be like.
“You join races, you get to select in what route you wish to have our game to head. Let’s now not be bullied by way of UTMB – they aren’t guiding our send, we the runners are. Cash talks and I can now not be spending a dime or any of my time with UTMB. I beg you to take into accounts the place your cash and your time will pass….”
Jim Walmsley, the 2022 UTMB champion, titled certainly one of his Strava actions within the remaining a number of days, “So what can we race subsequent yr then?” He showed with iRunFar after the truth that this identify was once certainly in connection with this Whistler race war.
Native Management Responds to Requests for Feedback
iRunFar asked feedback from Whistler’s two different major management entities on the subject of webhosting occasions, the Lodge Municipality of Whistler, a central authority entity, and Tourism Whistler, a tourism company.
iRunFar’s questions have been occupied with characterizing the entities’ interactions with the organizations in the back of WAM and UT Whistler.
The Lodge Municipality of Whistler [RMOW] supplied this written commentary:
“The RMOW labored on Municipal allows for the Whistler Alpine Meadows occasions as a part of their races, which came about on municipal assets. The RMOW allowing procedure which took place is same old process and adopted for all candidates.
“In a while after the Whistler Alpine Meadows race organizers made their announcement that they might now not be operating the development in Whistler, UTMB reached out to the RMOW asking if there was once a chance to convey their race to Whistler. Because the alpine spaces in query fall into Whistler Blackcomb/Vail’s jurisdiction, an advent was once made.”
Tourism Whistler submitted a written commentary as neatly:
“Tourism Whistler’s courting with the Whistler Alpine Meadows (WAM) path race incorporated offering advertising make stronger and helping organizers with an Financial Have an effect on Evaluate find out about following the 2022 tournament. It is a carrier Tourism Whistler supplies to many occasions that happen within the hotel. We due to this fact recognize the sure financial have an effect on of the former WAM races, and we have been sorry to listen to in their choice to not transfer forward with any Whistler occasions one day.
“Tourism Whistler turned into acutely aware of UTMB/The Ironman Workforce’s passion in bringing a path operating tournament to Whistler after it had already been introduced publicly that WAM was once now not returning to the hotel. Additionally it is our working out that Whistler Blackcomb and UTMB/The Ironman Workforce didn’t have interaction in any conversations in regards to the Extremely Path Whistler tournament till after it were showed that WAM was once now not returning. Whistler has a long-standing and sure running courting with The Ironman Workforce after webhosting the Whistler Ironman triathlon from 2010 to 2019 and we sit up for welcoming them again to the hotel with a brand new path operating tournament.”
What Does the Path Operating Neighborhood Do Now?
Robbins closed that weblog put up with a right away problem to the UT Whistler group, “…Coast Mountain Path Operating are formally pronouncing our intentions of launching a BC [British Columbia] race in direct pageant with this tournament, in September 2024.”
In an interview, Robbins summarized why he’s selected to be vocal about this tale, “I need other folks to be trained, and to permit other folks to make knowledgeable selections from there. I need our North American ultrarunning scene to have a collective voice.”
In an interview with iRunFar, McGonigal, of the UTMB Global Collection, stated, “We would like to give you the option to fix the fences.”
When requested if he concept the placement might be resolved, Robbins stated, “With Ironman, this is past restore. With Vail Hotels, we’d be open to running with them on an tournament once more in Whistler if The Ironman Workforce have been now not part of issues.”
It’s possible that we’ll by no means know the total tale in the back of this unlucky war. And, such a lot of questions stay.
What’s going to — or will have to — occur subsequent on this path operating tale of David and Goliath?
Will Whistler Blackcomb Ski Lodge and the UTMB Global Collection pass forward with the 2024 Extremely Path Whistler by way of UTMB in spite of the giant pushback they have got won since their race announcement? In the event that they do, will they garner sufficient entries to effectively host the race?
What tournament will Gary Robbins, Geoff Langford, and Coast Mountain Path Operating introduce in September 2024, to meet their intent to compete with the UTMB Global Collection tournament? Will runners prove within the droves they have got promised on-line?
And in all probability most significantly, what obligations do the Goliaths of this tale — and of this game — have in running with and supporting the Davids within the communities through which they want to function?
As the game of path operating has grown, the neighborhood’s basic sentiment has been that there’s room for each roughly user and each roughly race. However this war has many asking if that is nonetheless true.
“I’m leaning towards, no, it’s not imaginable to coexist,” stated Robbins. “If in case you have publicly traded firms with billion-dollar budgets that experience the solution to shareholders, the whole lot comes right down to the base line of tips on how to monopolize issues probably the most. That’s simply fact.”
Robbins concluded, “There are improbable other folks throughout the Vail Hotels group, and I’m positive there are in reality just right other folks at Ironman as neatly. However they’re faceless organizations for probably the most section, and they have got to make selections that appease their shareholders. When that’s the case, you’ll’t in all probability make selections in the most productive passion of the communities through which you’re running.”
Till this war, despite the fact that, the game has in large part demonstrated a minimum of tolerance of large-scale business operations inside of it. The expansion of the UTMB Global Collection from 0 to 40 occasions since its inception in 2021 displays en masse participation.
And the UTMB competition of occasions in Chamonix, France, a separate group additionally owned and operated by way of the UTMB Workforce and The Ironman Workforce, has change into simply probably the most aggressive team of path ultramarathons on the earth. It was once the beginning level of the entire UTMB-based operations twenty years in the past and serves because the central races of the UTMB Global Collection. The competitiveness of those races displays elite runners’ acceptance of the a couple of huge organizations in the back of it.
However the path operating neighborhood’s swift, sharp, and nearly common protection of Robbins and Langford in addition to its rejection of the UT Whistler announcement learn as a sign shift. To co-opt the outline Greenwood utilized in her social media put up, it kind of feels the path neighborhood has arrived at a crossroads and is taking a look down a couple of doable paths.
Handiest time will inform down which trail path runners will pass.
Name for Feedback
We empathize with the delicate nature of this subject, and want to lend a hand host a productive neighborhood dialog about it. Thus, we respectfully request you to observe iRunFar’s remark coverage. Confrontation and debate are all the time welcome, as long as you proportion your ideas constructively.
- What do you assume the path operating neighborhood will have to do now?
- Will you as a person take motion because of this war?
- Do you assume the massive or new firms transferring into path operating and ultrarunning have any accountability to maintain the puts and communities into which they input?