While people ascend the Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association’s newest trail, they’ll pass signs that mark the height of the Stawamus Chief, and, eventually, even the Sea to Sky Gondola.
That’s how high this circuit goes.
As the largest trail the society has built, Spélhxen tl’a Stl’lhalem spans about nine kilometres, taking riders to about 900 metres of elevation.
The climb is about four to five kilometres, followed by three to four kilometres of downhill.
The route bears a number of similar characteristics to another well-known trail called Half Nelson.
But there are important differences. One example is the elevation of this new trail, which has opened to mark SORCA’s 25th anniversary.
“Just the sheer access to how high this thing gets” is one reason why SORCA spokesperson Brad Skerrett believes it will be a ride to remember.
It’ll take many people about two hours to reach the top. This would be inaccessible to many casual riders.
“In most towns, that wouldn’t garner much interest because it’s only going to be a couple of Olympians doing it,” Skerrett said.
But because of the high number of devoted bikers in Squamish, SORCA decided to construct the trail that way.
“We’ve got such an aggressive mountain biking population,” Skerrett said. “I ride it regularly and every day there’s Squamish moms and dads up there climbing for two hours in the hot sun.”
The payoff could be worth it — the ride down can take up to one hour, depending on the rider.
“It’s really just the grand scale of the thing,” Skerrett said.
The name of the trail is from the Squamish language, which means the Meadow of the Grizzly.
It’s an acknowledgement of the First Nations land upon which it is built, as well as a reminder of the fact that at one point grizzlies frequently wandered the upper part of the area.
The climb starts just above Quest University as a continuation of the Stl’lhalem Sintl’ trail and opens up single track access from town to Garibaldi Park and even bigger loops on Diamond Head.
More than 550 sponsors and crowdfunders chipped in to make the trail a reality.
About 2,000 hours of machine work was done to the route, along with an additional 3,000 hours of putting things together by hand. SORCA is a volunteer organization which has been responsible for building mountain biking trails around Squamish.
The group recently welcomed its thousandth member.
Skerrett also added that the society would like to thank all those involved with the big project.