Skip to content

Climbing for dollars

It's hard to put a price tag on the thrill of climbing - but the Climbers Access Society of B.C. (CASBC) is determined to prove just how much climbing contributes to the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada's economy.

It's hard to put a price tag on the thrill of climbing - but the Climbers Access Society of B.C. (CASBC) is determined to prove just how much climbing contributes to the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada's economy.

CASBC, in conjunction with Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management, will be conducting a study of the socio-economic contribution of climbers and rock climbing to the Squamish area. Extensive fieldwork will be undertaken at all climbing areas from Comic Rocks to Cal-Cheak until October.

"Having information on the nature of recreational use, especially climbing, is very important for the sustainable management of these activities," said Randy Morris, an SFU graduate student who will be doing most of the fieldwork and compiling the results. "It's been very difficult to estimate the importance of the economical and social contributions [that climbers make] to Squamish."

A recent estimate suggested that the value of climbing to the economy of Squamish was approximately $20 million annually, an amount that surprise many, but not those in the climbing community.

As Canada's premiere destination and location for world-class rock climbing, many residents have based their decision to move to Squamish because of the quality, quantity, and accessibility to some of the best rock on the planet.

George Hanzal, who owns Climb-On, a climber-specific outdoor store in downtown Squamish, feels that climbers are a huge part of Squamish's future.

"I've been in business for six years and there's definitely been growth," he said. "In the '80s there were maybe only five of us climbing; now there must be hundreds of climbers living in Squamish. All summer, every summer the town fills up with climbers. They need to eat, repair their cars, visit the pubs and stores - that's a lot of money coming in."

Hanzal has also seen Squamish's climbing reputation grow from provincial, to Canadian to international.

"This year, there was a large group of climbers from Sweden," he said. "It has definitely become an international destination - many Europeans are now coming here. They think of it as the Yosemite of the North."

The study has been ongoing since early May, when Morris began hitting climber's parking lots and crags asking a variety of questions to locals and visitors. Visitors are being asked how much time they spend climbing in Squamish, what brought them to Squamish, where they are staying and the length of their stay.

Locals will also be asked a series of questions on how important climbing is to them, whether climbing was a factor in their decision to live in Squamish, and how often they climb. They are also asked to list any other aspects of Squamish that have influenced their choice to live here; such as work opportunities, other recreational opportunities or the natural characteristics of the area.Morris explained that some of the other goals of the study are to provide current, valid information on the statistics of climbing in Squamish, and to establish the patterns of use for different climbing areas, as well as the total number of climbers throughout the Squamish region.

"Hopefully we'll be able to identify the social demographics of climbers," said Morris. "Having access to credible data provides a basis for improved decision-making for assessing land-use options."

The study hopes to also correct any misconceptions involving the impact of climbing in Squamish and who climbers really are.

"There has been a lack of understanding of the role that climbing plays in the community and it's been difficult to estimate the importance of the economic and social contributions [that climbing provides] to Squamish," said Morris.

Hanzal noted that although there are many transient climbers that live in Squamish throughout the summer months without employment, their impact cannot go unnoticed. "A lot of these kids do not have summer jobs," he said. "They sacrifice a lot just to climb. But I think it's very important to have climbers here - it's good for the town."

Throughout the summer, Morris and other volunteers will be counting cars, conducting basic climber surveys and interviews and asking for feedback about the project. For more information about the survey or to volunteer, contact Randy Morris at 604-779-4651 or visit