Coast Mountain Playground

Story by Misti Hurst// Photos by fraserbritton.com & Misti Hurst
February 9 2021

The Squamish Dirt Bike Association offers world-class trails for riders of all skill levels.

Who knew that just 50 minutes from my house in North Vancouver, in a town that I’ve driven through hundreds of times, is a series of some of the most epic single-track dirt bike trails I’ve ever found?

Squamish, B.C., the self-proclaimed “outdoor recreation capital of Canada,” not only lays claim to world-class rock climbing, kite-surfing and mountain biking, also has an extensive system of stunning single-track, multi-use trails that provide endless opportunities for all levels of dirtbike riders. I’ve lived in this region my entire life and only this past summer did I discover the wondrous, supernatural outdoor motorcycle playground that Squamish has to offer.

An added bonus to this discovery was meeting dozens of new motorcycle-riding friends and acquaintances – fellow nutjobs equally obsessed about two-wheeled adventures and all members of the Squamish Dirt Bike Association (SDBA).

The SDBA is a volunteer-run dirt bike club that operates in the Sea to Sky Corridor. They promote safe and responsible riding and believe in “the equality of riding, safety, rider training and education, as well as support and understanding the needs of all user groups.” In essence, they are on a mission to build a network of people and trails.

And What a Network It Is

I was introduced to the SDBA by Tony Porter, a long-time friend and former road racer who took me on my first Squamish single-track ride back in May of last year. Seeing as I wasn’t able to travel and coach like I’m used to because pandemic restrictions, I was looking to find some other way to satisfy my need for riding. When Tony asked me to join him, I said yes (of course)!

There are two main areas of riding, Cat Lake and Lava Flow, which are situated about 10 minutes apart (by car). Riders choose which area they wish to ride in and set up in the applicable parking area. These two vastly different landscapes offer a combined 57 km or so of deactivated logging roads and single-track trails to explore.

My first experience with the club began at Cat Lake. I turned off the famed Sea to Sky highway and pulled onto a logging road, then took a right through a yellow gate that is opened each day by members of the SDBA’s executive committee so association members can enjoy the trails. After about a five-minute drive, the single lane opened into a large cleared area that locals call the Foundation. There I met Tony, two of his friends and Phil Lay, the last of whom is on the SBDA’s executive committee.

Convenient Amenities

In this parking area, a concrete foundation (hence the name) offers a nice flat area where bikes, canopies, chairs and barbecues can be set up. Just back your truck up to the foundation and roll your bike off – no ramp needed!

The foundation is also adorned with beautifully painted murals and a lovely dedication to Hayden Turcott, a much loved member of the riding community who passed away in July 2019. His parents, Ariel and Paul, are avid supporters of the club – their way of staying connected and honouring Hayden’s memory. Something about that concept felt so comforting, like a family hug holding us tightly together.

Around the foundation are several short trails, which branch off and loop back again, on which novice riders and children can practise their skills. As well, a mini-motocross track was completed a few months ago, especially made for the kids to enjoy. People here seem to recognize and embrace the “family” aspect of dirtbike riding, supporting that in areas and events that are equally inclusive.

First Ride

Leaving the foundation, we rode up and over a large boulder and down into some fun single-track. We wound through dark, rooted trails, across wider rockier terrain and through recently logged wide-open areas, then popped out on a nice vista. Here, my riding companions practised summitting a high sandy hill climb while I took pictures of the stunning view of the ocean surrounded by snow-capped mountains, West Coast scenery at its finest, from the saddle of my motorcycle.

Even though there are trails labelled green and blue, most of them have some rocky steeps or tricky sections that are more suited to intermediate or higher-level riders. As Phil said, “Riding in Squamish isn’t easy. It’s one of the tougher areas to ride, so people tend to find many other areas in B.C. more forgiving.”

I had fun launching myself up and over some of the more difficult sections and was impressed by the patience, encouragement and support from the rest of the crew I was riding with.

A few days later, I met the same crew of riders at the Lava Flow, aptly named because the trails are built on 10,000-year-old lava flow from nearby Mount Garibaldi. The well-maintained parking area was recently tripled in size, which is a testament to how membership funds are dispersed to meet the changing needs of a growing club and sport.

Like Riding in a Movie Set

I marvelled at the riding terrain, which certainly is different from that of the Cat Lake trails. As I rode on some of these trails, I felt like I was riding through the set of Lord of the Rings and at any moment, a wizard or some elves would appear from behind the deep mossy green trees. I felt like shouting: “This is where I live! This is so beautiful!”

As we emerged from the luscious green trails and their gnarly twisted roots, we popped out to a large cleared area that had several narrow, tight, technical trails almost resembling mini motocross tracks cutting through. We braaapped up steep rocks, over twisty roots, popped in and out of dense forest and meandered our way up to another gorgeous viewpoint complete with snowy mountain peaks and puffy clouds in the distance.

One of the things that got me is how patient and supportive everyone is. I didn’t encounter any ego, impatience or frustration within my riding group or among any other riders we came across. Everyone was respectful and sparkly-eyed, happy to be out in Nature and riding bikes with friends.

With Membership Comes Privileges

The SDBA encourages those riding in these two areas to purchase memberships and display their SDBA stickers, and also that everyone riding follows the club’s guidelines. The goal of this strategy is to ensure that the generous privilege of being able to access and use such an extensive system of trails continues for years to come. Membership is $45 a year for individuals or $65, which includes a bronze membership in the British Columbia Off-Road Motorcycle Association (BCORMA).

The BCORMA supports more than 25 riding clubs and lobbies the provincial government on behalf of off-road riders in B.C. Membership in the BCORMA and local clubs supports things that riders often take for granted, such as trail maintenance and signage, GPS mapping, parking facilities, restrooms and special events.
In 2019, the SDBA’s goal was to surpass 150 members. That goal was achieved; the club had 250 members, a third of them female, by the end of last year. “A big drive in [building the] membership is the transition from beginner to intermediate riders,” Phil told me, “so we are working on putting in more novice and intermediate trails to support that growth.”

The SBDA’s rotating series of weekly events for members also encourage riders to join the club. As well, Stoke Builders, a monthly free clinic for kids and novice riders to learn new skills and gain a sense of camaraderie with other kids, also is a way for parents to connect with others within the rider community. I was told that as many as 20 young riders have participated in Stoke Builders sessions.

Women’s Riding Club

Every three weeks, on alternating weekdays, the SDBA supports the Girls with No Limits ride for women only. Before I fractured my wrist, I attended one of these events and I was surprised to see 17 women of varying riding levels in attendance. It was a super-fun night of riding and meeting new friends. I was most impressed that several women showed up alone for their first time riding in a group and that everyone was helpful, encouraging and patient. Girls with No Limits is a powerful way to grow the sport.

Other weekly SDBA events include trail-maintenance nights and social rides to encourage members to help out and acknowledge the hard work that every member of the executive committee puts in to keep the club running. As I mentioned before, the core philosophy of the SDBA is encouragement and inclusivity – and experiencing this felt so amazing!

What more could you ask for? Incredible scenery and trails, dirt bikes, great friends and a cold beer after a fun ride. Check out squamishdirtbikeassociation.ca for more information, and I’ll see you in the trails. Braaap!

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