On September 1st, 2018, paragliders from all over the world will descend upon the small town of Pemberton, BC, for the first ever Pemberton Aerothlon. Before you open a new window to search google for an Aerothlon, let’s get that out of the way. While the skills you need to compete may not be, the concept is simple: a relay race of mountain biking, running, and paragliding.
The idea was spawned by Pemberton local and longtime Sea-To-Sky mountaineer Peter Chrzanowski, who has executed these events in 3 locations around the world before coming back home for its final stop. Because of the unique combination of sports involved in the relay, the geography of the venue is probably the most significant hurtle. The landscape needs to cater to world class trail running and mountain biking, but also have safe conditions for paragliding.
These sites that boast a wealth of activity and a surrounding community are rare, but Chrzanowski, a longtime paraglider and avid mountain person, believes Pemberton fits the bill—the main hurtle will be gathering participants. “In Canada, paragliding is still a pretty obsure sport— there’s maybe 100 active pilots—or people that fly regularly—across the country. Compared to maybe 60,00 in France, 40,000 in Switzerland”, Chrzanowski explains. This lack of potential participants is not only a hurtle, but also one of the reasons Chrzanowski wants to bring this event to Pemberton. “Very few people know how to get into the sport, where to go and so on. It is a great way for runners and bikers to have a chance to enter the paraglide community.”, says Chrzanowski.
Chrzanowski’s experience comes from past successes—along with other local adventurers he has successfully kickstarted Aerotholons in Peru, Mexico, and Colombia. While the similar geography of these towns make them perfect locations for the exotic races, Chrzanowski believes they are also an ideal fit for cross-cultural exchange, and the growth of micro-tourism in the areas. In Colombia, the paragliders in the area were introduced to mountain biking, leading to a growth in the mountain bike scene there. He hopes the same can happen in Pemberton for the paragliding scene. Notable local mountaineers such as Austin Ross and Jason Kruk have already laid the groundwork transitioning into the Paragliding realm, but with the number of outdoor enthusiasts in the area, there is much more potential.
Through these growing scenes, Chrzanowski hopes that a sort of micro-tourism comes into play. By showcasing the paragliding opportunities, Chrzanowski believes visitors will be drawn back by the landscape. “We will have tons of Latin American visitors who will see our forests and our lakes—so much different than their arid areas.” Chrzanowski explains, hoping that this will eventually draw in more and more visitors to Pemberton. Since Roldanillo, Colombia started hosting paragliding events, around 600 pilots reside there for 4 months of the year, bringing in lots of revenue for the tourism industry. Chrzanowski believes that effect would be magnified being in the proximity to the Sea to Sky Corridor in Pemberton, with tons of like-minded people visiting the area already.
Peter and his fellow organizers have a simple vision for the event: for Pemberton to be recognized as the world class paragliding, trail running, and mountain biking destination that it is—and the first ever Aerothlon certainly seems like a step in the right direction.
To achieve their goal, Peter and his team are still looking for volunteers and racers. There are lots of options of ways to participate even if you don’t paraglide, please visit the website at https://raceroster.com/events/2018/14525/pemberton-aerothlon