Dave Sutton started mountain biking in Castlegar before most of the country even knew what the sport was. It was the early 1990s and although Californians had been riding hiking trails on their rigid-frame bicycles with knobby tires for about seven years, most bikers in Canada were still using them to ride on paved roads. But at the age of 10, Dave was part of a young posse that would regularly take their bikes off-road. They even had a trail network built in the forests around Castlegar.

Today, Dave is still riding bikes and he’s also been recognized as one of the most talented trail builders in the province. For example, Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine featured him in an article that labelled him a “visionary” and “boutique builder of burl” who is making his mark “by building beautiful trails on and around natural features.”

One such trail is Merry Go Round, part of the Merry Creek network in Castlegar, that features the Cliff Hanger feature, a 20-foot-high, 60-foot-long bridge dangling from the side of a sheer rock face. Much of the material required for that, including the footings and metal brackets, were donated by the Mercer Celgar pulp mill where Dave works as a carpenter. He says that trail is a far cry from his earlier work as a trail builder. “When I was younger, we’d use whatever we had at our disposal like parts of people’s old fences that had been discarded. We’ve definitely evolved.”

Another step in the evolution of Castlegar’s mountain biking scene was the marriage of the Castlegar Mountain Bike Society and the Castlegar Parks and Trails Society in 2012. This allowed the bike organization Dave was involved with to apply for grant money and take what were once rogue trails built on Crown Land and legalize them. That included the three trails off Rialto Forest Service Road, which had a hand in building including Awakener, Grandiflorum, and Dirty Dreams.

Sarah Meunier is the executive director of the Castlegar Parks and Trails Society and also Dave’s partner. The day we chat she was overseeing the construction of a new parking lot at the base of the new Dirty Dreams climbing trail on Broadwater Road. She says it’s a rewarding experience creating something that brings joy to so many people. “Yesterday Dave and I rode our bikes here and a group of younger people came up to us and thanked us so much for all the work we’ve done with the trails here.”

Above: Some examples of the work trail builder Dave Sutton has done.

Currently there are 52 mountain biking trails in and around Castlegar located at seven main areas, the most popular being Merry Creek, Rialto, and Millennium Park. Dave has worked on most of them and he says the thing that makes Castlegar unique is attention to detail when it comes to the trails. “We’ve put a lot of time and thought into areas such as Merry Creek and it’s a true network of trails. You don’t have to worry about getting lost or spending half your time on Trailforks trying to figure out where you are. The networks here are intuitive.”

Sarah Meunier and Dave Sutton on the newly built Dirty Dreams uptrack.

The other reason he loves mountain biking in Castlegar is the weather. “I’ve ridden Dirty Dreams in February!” he says. Sarah agrees the mild weather in the area is perfect for mountain bikers. “I love the sunshine here,” she says. “It’s such a sunny place!”

For more about the mountain biking trails in Castlegar, visit our biking page: destinationcastlegar.com/out-about/biking/