If you’ve been noticing a few extra chalk bags around Squamish, it’s probably because the 9th annual Squamish Mountain Festival kicked off on Wednesday, setting into motion a 5-day celebration of all things climbing.
The festival, which brings together climbers of all ages and abilities, includes climbing clinics, world-renowned speakers, a stacked roster of adrenaline films, legendary competitions and, of course, lots of beer.
And although festival organizers say they hope to keep the feel “grassroots,” it seems the secret is out—almost all of the clinics are already sold out and thousands are expected at the trade show. But don’t worry: this just means you’ll have the opportunity to meet a lot of new climbing partners.
We talked to Justin Sweeny, the marketing manager for festival presenter Arc’teryx, about climbing culture, keeping it authentic and why this festival is so dang popular.
Mountain Life: This is the 9th annual Squamish Mountain Festival. What’s new that we have to look forward to?
Justin Sweeny: This is going to be a super fun year for us. We have been super successful and happy with the existing format over the past 9 years and will be sticking to a very similar format. We have added a few fun things to the festival this year such as partnering with Mags 99, and Whistler brewery and will be serving up tacos and beer at the trade fair during the dyno comp. We will also be enhancing our activation at the event with an on-site seeing station sewing ARC branded lunch bags for people. We are also excited to partner with Innate for our locals nights offering co branded insulated beer mugs filled with beer for the first 50 people.
ML: The festival calls itself a “grassroots gathering.” What does that mean and how does you balance “grassroots” with the festival’s growing profile and popularity?
JS: The festival has sustained a grassroots feel and concept to it for the past 9 years. This allows us to grow the festival at a sustainable rate and work with in the Squamish local communities to support as much local business as possible.
ML: You have some huge names in climbing—Alex Honnold, Cedar Wright—coming. What do you think attracts them to the festival?
JS: We are very lucky to have a world-class climbing location as our backdrop for the festival. It’s a natural inventive to attract some of the best climbers of the world to our festival and gives them an excuse to come and climb some of the best granite in the world.
ML: Nearly all of the instructional clinics are already sold out. Why do you think people are so excited?
JS: It has a great reputation for high quality clinics at a very reasonable price. Whether you are learning how to read climb or dialing in a more progressive climbing skill set there is something for everyone in terms of our clinic schedule.