CANMORE – Tony Smith is determined to making sure Grizzly Mountain Events Inc. has a future.
Smith, owner of the Bow Valley-based multi-sport company, is optimistic the brand’s signature event the Grizzly Ultra Marathon and Relay on Oct. 11 will move forward after a rocky year amid COVID-19 that's forced five of its events to be cancelled and brought the company to the verge of collapse.
“[Grizzly Ultra] will pretty much save the day for me,” Smith said. “If I’m not able to stage that event, it will be very, very difficult to stay afloat through winter financially.
“[Grizzly Mountain Events is] my entire livelihood. I put in my heart and soul and it’s been my labour of love for 12 years.”
When public health authorities shut down sporting events across Canada in March to comply with social distancing efforts, that meant registration fees dried up instantly and contract jobs for Smith, such as with the Banff Marathon, were lost.
“It was a devastating loss financially and a huge administration challenge to refund and manage the fallouts and that’s been a huge task as well,” Smith said.
He added Grizzly Mountain Events took around a $100,000 blow this year, but he's doing everything in his power to stay in the fight.
This meant taking an innovative approach to mitigate costs. With everything on the line, Smith is offering junk to the dump runs with his truck and events trailer, giving up the lease on his storage facility, and selling items such as a work truck, merchandise for cancelled events, and specialized wood-crafted bear statues.
“I’m an entrepreneur and I’m in strong position to be able to think out of the box and generate revenue to stay afloat,” said Smith. “I’ve received an awful lot of support. We’ve developed quite a loyalty and quite a strong following and it kind of leads into the whole bear story, because I’ve had to pivot and find other ways to stay afloat and so people have been purchasing the bears … they’ve been very, very popular.”
Sales from the wood bear critters have helped keep his head above water, Smith said.
When looking ahead, Smith said there’s a growing sense of confidence that the Grizzly Ultra Marathon and Relay could move forward following the ease of restrictions this month, which has included golf courses opening to guests.
Registration sales are already doing well for the October event, Smith said, who’s included an 80 per cent entry fee refund guarantee if the event is cancelled for any reason, or a 100 per cent rollover to 2021.
“It’ll be the 10th anniversary of it, if we can actually stage it,” Smith said. “We’re hopeful that we can do it, it’s on Thanksgiving weekend … I’d imagine there would be some social distancing measures in place still, but we’d just have to follow the guidelines for whatever is mandated for us to actually execute the event in the safest possible way.”
For more information about Grizzly Mountain Events, email email@example.com, or visit the Facebook page Grizzly Mountain Events.