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ICYMI: Mild winter, poor snow and good dirt: SORCA trail crews get working

Squamish mountain biking trails are good riding this time of year.
AJ Strawson, who is the lead builder and trail crew manager with the Squamish Off Road Cycling Association (SORCA).

And the workers are off: Squamish trail crews have hit the biking network from the end of January to begin improvements and get the network up to scratch for a busy season.

A mild winter has allowed riders to enjoy almost the entire network in the area.

"It's a really nice time of year to be riding—where we lose a lot of moisture in summertime, the trails are running great even if they're a bit wet," said AJ Strawson, who is the lead builder and trail crew manager with the Squamish Off Road Cycling Association (SORCA).

Strawson said it wasn't unusual to be riding through the year in Squamish, but winter 23-24 was turning out to be a good year for 'hero dirt.'

"Hero dirt is just the right amount of moisture in the soil to give you a good sense of grip, to be predictable, to ride quickly. It's not too dry where you have marbles; it's not too wet for it to be soggy."

Conditions are not quite perfect because of that same moisture, though.

"You have to keep your wits about you because we do see a lot of changes in terms of trees coming down on trails because of the extra moisture and the wind we have."

Trail crews with SORCA spool up to a busy spring and fall, with a break over the new year. A smaller trail crew has been working since the end of January.

"We choose projects that are easy for a smaller crew to tackle; we also want to choose things that if we leave them, there's not going to be a consequence to the trail itself—you'll still be able to ride through. In the six days we've had, we've done a bit of drainage work on Jacks, [and] we've started repairing the Legacy Climb up towards the Griz [Meadow of the Grizzly trail]."

Priorities for the SORCA trail crews 

The work is never done for SORCA trail crews.

"We'll be looking at continued upgrades and enhancements to the network to facilitate access by adaptive bikes," Strawson said.

"We tend to look to the trails that see a lot of usage and function as a core component, either as a mountain bike specific trail or it's a critical component of the network in terms of getting around. We'll be doing a fair bit on both of those," he said, explaining that they wanted to build a better-connected network.

"We want to make it so there's more mountain biking in a user's mountain biking ride."

Also of note, work on the Cheekye Fan debris barrier will be happening in 2024.

"We'll see some more traffic than usual on the northside connector, which intersects a number of trails, so that will be something worth keeping in mind."

Asked the toughest question of all, Strawson said if he had to pick a favourite trail section this time of year, it was the trails that benefited from the best grip.

"It's probably the aggressive single black trails in the Diamond Head zone that would be my go-to at the moment."

Want to get involved in SORCA? Strawson has an idea.

"I'm a big believer in volunteer dig days, and so if you're a member of SORCA, you can come and attend one of our dig days, and they start in March. If the snow is terrible come March, feel free to sign up for your membership and come down and do some shovelling."


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