Heidi Grant speaks at the Burns Lake Mountain Biking Association (BLMBA)’s Workbee and wiener roast on June 26 at Kager Lake. At the weekly Wednesday Workbees, local riders can help with trail maintenance and building projects. (Blair McBride photos)

Professional rider praises Burns Lake trails

Until last week, Nate Hills hadn’t heard of Burns Lake, let alone the mountain biking culture here. Nor had he traveled this far north in British Columbia before.

“Living in the States, it wasn’t even on my radar to come up here and ride per se,” Hills told Lakes District News, at the Burns Lake Mountain Biking Association (BLMBA)’s wiener roast at Kager Lake.

“Even the skiing isn’t really talked about that much this far north. [Up here] is a new thing for me that I hadn’t thought about earlier. [But] it’s good,” said Hills, who is a professional mountain biker and lives in Dillon, Colorado.

Hills was encouraged to visit northwestern B.C. by the Ride North wing of BC Bike Ride, an organization that works with local groups to promote mountain biking tourism in the province.

READ MORE: Burns Lake becomes key hub in region’s mountain biking

During his trip he visited each town on the Ride North circuit – Terrace, Smithers, Burns Lake, Prince George and Valemount – and shot videos of him riding on local trails.

“They had budget funding from the Ride North consortium and they were trying to figure out ways to do a different spin on marketing other than a magazine article. With my YouTube presence and how the whole media landscape is changing, I can reach a lot of people. My YouTube channel is based on travelling and riding on different trails across the country and the world. I’ve created a catalogue of trails and people can go on there and see what they’re getting into,” he explained.

“People rely on me when they’re travelling. They can see what I’ve ridden and get a little trail preview. And people can see them and think ‘oh we should do a road trip up there.’”

Every Friday Hills posts a video of his rides on his YouTube page #followcamfriday.

The riding trails in Burns Lake have impressed Hills, despite the size of the village.

“It seems like the infrastructure up here, [with] such a concentration of mountain bikers – it seems like there’d be a really big town at the bottom of the hill but it’s a small town. I feel like this is a good example of what community should be doing. Looking at the town I would feel there’d be five people who ride mountain bikes, but you come up here and there’s like 30 people [riding].”

“The trails are current and modern up to standard and engaging and well-built. This place in particular with a barbecue community and organized trail days, everything is super dialled and good community around the whole infrastructure of it.”

But BLMBA’s Workbee event stood out even more for the professional rider.

“We don’t really have dig days in the U.S. quite as often. And a lot of it is because of silly American liability laws and rules and they don’t want you digging because you might get hurt and sue somebody, which is ridiculous,” he said.

“This sort of culture isn’t as embedded with mountain bike culture as it needs to be in the States. Here, people are taught you’re supposed to dig and then you can ride your bike. Whereas in the States people just go buy a bike and they almost have a sense of entitlement where they just get to use the trails and they don’t actually do any trail work, which I think is really strange.”

“But this is what they’re doing right here – everyone has pride in the trail, everyone works on it and then everybody goes and rides. And there’s a tremendous sense of pride and community built into that.”

Hills pointed to his home state as an example of how mountain biking culture should stay on the right track.

“You always want to maintain growth sustainably. I live in Colorado and it’s one of the busiest, most blown out places you could ever live and it’s been completely over marketed and it has lost its charm, and I’ve lived there for over 20 years,” he said.

“The ski industry has brought so many people into the state and I appreciate the economic stimulus from it, like my house is worth a lot of money and that’s great but truthfully I don’t want to live there anymore because it’s too crowded. I think doing it right is doing it sustainably and advertising it on smaller levels and not just selling it out and trying to bring everybody we can here. And growing the trail system accordingly and growing the infrastructure accordingly. It seems like they’re doing that tastefully [here] and in the right direction.

“But [in] these smaller towns, you want it to grow but you don’t want it to lose its charm. That’s the goal.”

Hills’ Burns Lake video is scheduled to go on his YouTube page on July 12.

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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