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What do in-person events look like during the pandemic recovery?

Posted By Garnet Moore, Tuesday, September 22, 2020
in person events

During a recent CWA Community Call, our members discussed some of the problems and solutions around hosting in-person climbing competitions and events. Getting back to large group gatherings is far off in many areas of the world, but we still need to provide a sense of community and fun for members, potential new customers, and athletes.


We focused our session on first describing some of the problems facing gyms who are trying to bring these events back, and then we brainstormed different solutions to the challenges. In each brainstorming phase we looked at the positive marketing and growth opportunities, some of the technical solutions to social distancing and capacity issues, and creative solutions to provide similar experiences to traditional events. At the end of the session we chatted about alternative event types that could involve local partners, focus on members, or involve your entire community.



You may have guessed some of the key problems a gym faces hosting a competition in the current environment. Social distancing, capacity, and risk management are big headline problems that face all areas of gym operations. Competitions, however, have some unique considerations such as travel, sponsorship, judging, isolation areas, and audience ambience. The gyms on our call had some great ideas about how to mitigate these risks, and, in some ways, make their events even better!



Competition Formats

  • Multi-day competition with time slots allowing for cleaning between time slots
  • Individually paced competition over a week or more
  • Create an isolated area for the competition to take place and film competitors without an audience, similar to the NBA or soccer

Routesetting Considerations

  • More of the gym could be used for comp routes than events with an audience
  • Consider grading differently if only liquid chalk is allowed
  • Routes may need more spacing than normal to maintain social distancing

Marketing Opportunities

  • With multi-day events, build FOMO after the event starts and make signups available longer
  • Climbing presents a socially distant, contact-free way to engage in competitive sports. Can be a great alternative to many of the contact sports that have been cancelled
  • Video creation opportunity for at-home competition training
  • Present logos from sponsors for online scoresheets/leaderboard

Climbing Leagues

Leagues are a great way to keep climbers engaged over a long period of time. They are also a great way to help facilitate new connections and build community when people can’t be together in person. The members on this Community Call had some excellent ideas on ways that leagues could help promote gym member participation and deeper friendships.


How to Create Teams

  • Create virtual meeting rooms for people to self-select
  • Gyms can put teams together based on the climber’s availability and schedule
  • Drafting based on self-made profiles with silly questions
  • Through a registration page, people can join with a team or as a "Free Agent." Teams are created this way in many other sports and recreational leagues

How to Score League Competitions

  • White board in the gym with team names
  • Scoring can be completely customized using apps
  • Bonus points for climbing in the morning or reduced points for peak hours
  • Weighted scoring, using a VMAX score to keeping things even

League Formats

  • Multi-month leagues based on total climbs
  • Digital platforms allow you to run ongoing leagues, or one every 4 weeks
  • Bi-annual - summer/winter or spring/fall (one could be indoor, another possible outdoor)

Marketing Opportunities

  • Leagues can organize around a system board, the Moon Board, or the Kilter Board
  • Market as a way to get back into shape (undo "quarantine 15")
  • Use a digital platform to save time and energy
  • Create a space to allow for "quarantine buddies" to form and keep each other motivated to stay fit
  • Charge for league participation to help bring back some revenue or use as a member retention tool

Other Events

On this call some of the owners and managers had excellent ideas on new types of events that could bring in extra income or help your local community and your climbing community.


What events can involve local partners?

  • Sponsored routes in the gym. Everyone who climbs this route is entered in a drawing for some donated swag
  • Charity fundraisers for community organizations (virtual raffle/auction)
  • Home school group PE programs
  • Climb-a-mile type comps where people can get sponsors for the distance they climb in a certain timeframe

What events can involve the whole community?

  • Outdoor or drive-in movie night
  • Climbing Bingo. Hand out cards to be turned in at the end of the week for prizes
  • Live music outside, if you have the outdoor space
  • Gear-centered events: something like a shoe donation to gyms in need
  • Using outdoor space, set up tables and a small wall to get other companies involved

What events are best for members only?

  • Long-form events that run over weeks or months
  • Outdoor climbing tour with staff
  • Gear/clothing swaps
  • Trivia, photo contest, live performances, virtual happy hours, and Netflix parties

There are a number of event types that can help keep your members excited and maintaining their membership. If you market these programs correctly and connect with the needs of your community, you may even be able to get some new members regardless of your capacity limitations. The long-term prospects for climbing are excellent and now is the time to find the events, programs, and features that resonate with your customers!


Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Interim Executive Director at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, serving gyms, manufacturers, and many climbing friends and partners.


Tags:  community development  competitions  coronavirus  COVID-19  marketing  member retention  operations  programming 

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Seven of the Best Citizen Climbing Comps in the US

Posted By Emma Walker, Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Best Climbing Competitions

Every year, more members are looking to test their skills as gym climbing grows in popularity. And for those with a competitive streak, there’s no better (or more fun) way to gauge progression than a competition at their local gym. Rallies and meetups at iconic climbing areas are all the rage—just look at the Hueco Rock Rodeo and 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, for example—but why should outdoor crags have all the fun? If you’re looking to start a comp at your gym, look to these seven citizen comps for inspiration.


Portland Boulder Rally

The Portland Boulder Rally, held at The Circuit, is among the country’s most beloved climbing events. With a $10,000 cash purse (and tons of raffle prizes and swag being handed out), it’s an aspirational event—and a chance for local boulderers to rub elbows with some of the top athletes in the game.



Albuquerque’s Stone Age Climbing Gym hosts the annual Yank-n-Yard, a major event for the Southwestern climbing community. In addition to the youth comp and competitive categories, there’s an affordable citizen comp—not to mention a beer garden, live music, and awesome after-party, complete with a dyno comp and slacklining.



Momentum’s Lehi, Utah location looks forward to the Back2Plastic citizen comp every year. The low-key redpoint format, along with four ability-based categories and a masters division, make Back2Plastic a super-approachable comp for members of all ability levels. Momentum Lehi makes the most of its comp night by hosting a “mega demo” and sale on tons of shoes and gear.



Brooklyn Boulders throws itself an annual birthday party in Chicago, and it’s not your average climbing comp. BKBDay pulls out all the stops and puts on circus and acroyoga performances, a highline, and sponsored food and drink. The party kicks off with a Do-or-Dyno competition and gives half the proceeds from comp t-shirt sales to the Access Fund.



Salt Lake City’s The Front knows how to throw a Halloween party. Their annual, cleverly-named Deadpoint comp takes place at the end of October, and although there’s a “monster” cash purse, the most coveted prize is the Best Costume honor. (You’d be amazed at the intricate costumes people can boulder in—Disney characters, the Hulk, you name it.)


Touchstone Climbing Series

The gym that serves America’s most populated state has community climbing comps down to a science. The Touchstone Climbing Series runs for nine months of the year, and holds events for a wide array of skill levels, both on boulders and ropes. Each gym hosts its own self-scored comp throughout the series, complete with pizza and beer. Events are free for members of its gyms—and just $25 otherwise: a great way to draw in non-members.


Iron Maiden

As women’s climbing events and festivals become more popular, there’s increasing demand for women-only competitions, too, and the Iron Maiden delivers. An offshoot of MetroRock’s successful Dark Horse Bouldering Series, Iron Maiden offers team and individual competition. The all-ladies comps (and the fact that the gym has historically donated proceeds to a nonprofit organization) have generated great PR for MetroRock.


With the hundreds of climbing facilities now operating in the US and Canada, there’s no shortage of amazing programming and citizen comps out there! What other comps stand out to you? Leave us a comment below to share your thoughts!


Emma Walker Head ShotAbout Emma Walker

Emma Walker is a freelance writer, editor, and an account manager with Golden, Colorado-based Bonfire Collective. Emma earned her M.S. in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University and has worked as an educator and guide at gyms, crags, and peaks around the American West.


Tags:  climbing culture  community development  competitions  customer experience  customer service  marketing  programming  women 

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