I am the trail builder


A shower of sparks arcs across a workshop somewhere in Morrisville. The angle grinder whines like a Mountain Biker on volunteer day as he hones his edge. Sweat beads on his brow, furrowed deeper then the ruts on your local expert trail while your nemesis plots his every move. His blade silently screams his intent out into the dark of the night.

“I am the sanitizer!”

“I am the homogenizer!”

“I am the derooter!”

“I….am the trail builder.”

Out of the Vacuum he was born.
His plan hatched, and his will imposed upon your domain.
Allied with your apathy he has took root.
Lost is your sovereignty.
Gone are the days of Glory for Glory’s sake.
Where there was once love there is now hate.
Where there was once brotherhood there is now division.
Where there was once community there is now commodity.
All is lost….or is it?

Take control. Go to meetings. Get involved.
We want to build cool stuff too, but what we do is decided by you.



  • Tad says:

    I appreciate you effort but I still hope this “new trail ethic” will not be imposed on every trail. I go to meetings, I speak my mind, I offer what I can… including the few dollars I can afford, but I do not think everyone should be able to ride every trail. I know the design plan is not yours, and (again) I place no blame on you, but imagine if this same ethic was put into effect on the ski hill. How many would be happy with beginner trails for all there? Some say just ride faster, to that I say that I already have a road bike and that I mountain bike for technical challenges as well as the natural scenery. I am all for more beginner trails in the area, just not ALL beginner trails. Many have been outspoken on this topic across the nation and many have been ignored.
    These are my opinions and are not meant to offend,

  • Dave Packie says:

    This ethic was actually applied to the ski hill. Read the MMSC New Letters going back to the 40s. This same dialogue took place. Interestingly, the MMSC charter stated specifically that the club will not do anything to promote or market skiing, just to develop great skiing. At some point the club trail managers began to yield to the wants and needs of the less skilled public and the character of many of the advanced trails was lost. Imagine skiing the original Nosedive. I am sad that I will never get a chance to experience that classic.

    Back in the present, we are attempting to maintain single tracks. We assume it’s what we all want to ride. It is obvious, however, that some riders are unaware that most sections of trail that offer even marginally technical challenges are 8, 10, 12 feet wide. Even “experts” ride off trail for lines that avoid degraded sections of trail. Our only option is to offer a line that everyone will feel confident riding until there is some shift in the user/trail interface.

    The tolerance for $/foot has to drastically increase if you want true expert riding. It is inevitable that even trails marked as expert only will see many people attempt to ride it, who should not. As a result, every feature on such a trail will need a bail out to avoid random detours developing. These “on the fly” routes are rarely sustainable or well thought out and are exactly the types of impacts land managers do not want to see. Also, people want to ride together so splitting off on different trails is not desired.

    End result is these “expert” trails will need to be 2 trails. Double your cost right off the bat. Actually these trails are more likely triple cost because the advanced lines will require more technical building, rock work, structures, earth work. So we’re likely looking at $20+ bucks a foot to build REAL expert single track.

    80K per mile, minimum, would be my estimate. Maybe Brooke or Hardy will chime in if they feel this estimate is way off. How do we make this cheaper?

    Locals who complain suck it up, put down the bike for a while and pick up a shovel. You need to show up, GET TRAINED and do what your told until you have a good grasp of the scale and techniques needed to build legal, public trail, then be a significant portion of the labor in the project. As it stands now, this does not happen. We’re all busy. Realize that trail builders basically don’t ride. Once a week maybe. I haven’t had time to ride in over 2 weeks. It’s a sacrifice I make happily because trail quality is paramount on my ride.

    Your other option is to further develop you own skill. Granny-gearing around on low-speed tech is but one aspect of trail riding. Better cornering, riding trail faster, skills learned at the DJs, or flat land and trials skills are transformative as a trail rider. A great rider does not need “Gnar” to be pushing their envelope. They can throw down in a parking lot. On your daily ride are you wheelie-ing, doubling, airing with style, throwing tricks mid flow, nose bonking, tail tapping and jibbing things mid-air? Smooth trail and a single rock blip to me means a long manual through a fast section of single track. I almost never get them, but when I do it makes my ride.

    Finally, this is meant to be a bit of a satire. On Brooke’s crew we take a lot of time to think about keeping to original line intact while still providing a trail people will stay on. More than other crews. We are building a plan that was designed and accepted by the SMBC, a group who enjoys ALMOST NO SUPPORT from those who ride THE MOST.

    Ah’Yup, there’s yur problem…

    • Dwight says:

      I’ve always been a bit skeptical of the need for Clubs. In my opinion, many just add a degree of dysfunction to the whole dynamic. Land managers these days tend to be entities like the State or the Town or the USFS. Having a volunteer based club, with leadership that has no special understanding of land development and usage, or any timeline that works for the pros trying to do business with professional land managers, is not a model that will lead to success. The clubs also tend to become hierarchical and exclusive. I’m not sure what the solution will be going forward. It does seem that you all have a failure of communication more than anything. Perhaps it’s time to do what we tried to do a few years ago… sit down, hash out everything, get mad if you have to, change leadership if required, and come together to develop a realistic long term plan that will work for everyone – including the local riders who are often ignored. Trail builders are like any other craftspeople… they want to work at what they love to do and build stuff that “wow” people when they ride it for the first time. I don’t agree with Dave on everything – especially the two lane trail system – but he is right about something. If you want to have a voice in all of this you need to get involved and stop being an internet troll. Or do what I did, find a new place to ride and/or build trails.

  • Dwight says:

    In the grand scheme of things, mountain bike trail development is relative new, and it’s evolving fast. Today’s bikes, the number of people riding, and the management of the land – mostly public – is all part of the dynamic that goes into modern day trail building. There really is no “new trail ethic”. It’s complicated. More so than it should be, but that’s the way it is these days, like it or not. If you want a say in how things progress you need to get involved. And be realistic about what you want. Land managers do have a say in how trails get developed. But, if you have ideas and something to say, then say it. And make sure the right people hear you. As far as the guys building the trails; be aware that a lot of them love to mountain bike, and most are way better than you. They want to build sick stuff too. But nothing much is going to happen that’s positive if everyone is focused on how bad everyone else sucks. It’s mountain biking for God’s sake!

  • jimmibob says:

    First things first people need to understand that raking and leaf blowing trails is the number 1! cause of trail destruction! leave things alone.

  • Dave Packie says:

    “Leave things alone” I see what you did there. Jimmibob, this sure sounds like trolling expedition but since you brought it up, I’ll comment. I have heard people complain about any raking of anything, I have heard people complain about no raking of anything…..in fact, I’m just getting really used to hearing mountain bikers complain.

    On raking, or leaf blowing, I follow the common sense rule. If the organic material becomes so thick that the trail starts to disappear, you need to clear it. We all know some places we ride that become almost impossible to ride like we would like after leaves drop. Rake it, but keep it narrow. I have also seen do-gooders turn a nice tight track that needed a lite rake here and there get carried away and leaf blow a 4 foot wide swath, leaving a widened track in their wake.

    Organic material holds water. It’s a sponge and prevents evaporation. It keeps the trails wetter longer. In some very high traffic areas I have seen leaves get chewed up so fast that the trail remains well defined and the organic material is blown off the line by the day to day erosive action of use and a balance exists where the leaves fill in on the periphery but the line remains unobscured.

    There are no absolute rules in trail stewardship. Everything depends on all the variables in play. Traffic, average user skill and awareness, soil types, dendrology, gradient. Perhaps on a very flat trail with perfect dirt through a forest of conifers that see 20 riders a week raking would represent the biggest impact a trail might see, but this is an anomaly in my opinion. By orders of magnitude, standing water on the trail plus riders who refuse to walk, or water running down a trail, or oversteep and underbuilt trails being ridden by less skilled riders are what displace the real dirt, i.e. mineral dirt, from the trail and widen the track as what lies beneath becomes exposed.

    In my experience anyone who tells you there is only 1 way to do things is ignorant, attempting to manipulate, of just trying to start an argument…in general, not just in the tiny micro-bubble of Vermont Mountain Bike trail work.

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