Conditions delay completion of Big Horn Trail

Photo supplied by Jay Hoots

Masha Scheele

Mountain bikers in the area had big hopes of riding the full epic Big Horn Trail this fall. 

The trail was scheduled to be finished later this year, but the Vancouver-based Hoots Bike Parks crew was slowed down due to conditions.

They worked to complete the downhill portion of the trail, but unfortunately, construction of the uphill trail was delayed due to the relentless rainfall this summer.

“A lot of the work we were supposed to have a mechanical advantage for, we ended up doing by hand,” said professional trail builder Jay Hoots, who was part of previous construction projects in Hinton’s Bike Park.

By hand, the crew completed nearly the entire five kilometre downhill portion and one kilometre of the uphill trail, which is supposed to be somewhere between eight and ten kilometres.

“The downhill section, it was supposed to be a combination of excavator and hand work,” said Hoots. “Four and a half kilometres was all done by hand.”

Photo supplied by Jay Hoots

People have been able to ride this downhill portion of the trail, but the uphill section has been closed off.  While it was wet, they also cleared a five kilometre corridor of trees as part of the uphill portion.

The crew scheduled months of construction and planned to work alongside local volunteers but decided to halt the project to work in other areas while they waited out the rain in Hinton.

“This is probably one of our worst seasons on record in terms of what we’ve been able to do and what the weather has allowed us to do,” said Hoots.

The crew accomplished about 50 per cent of work on most of their projects this summer, he added.

Not only did the project suffer from rain and drainage issues, the crew also found that a high water table prohibited work in the ground.

When the crew dug into the ground removing organic materials to find good solid construction material, like mineral soils, water ran like a giant sheet across the entire trail. 

“We tried all kinds of different drainage techniques,” said Hoots. “Ways to do the project but it just got to the point where it became like we were going backwards.“

Photo supplied by Jay Hoots

Throughout the project, the Hoots crew has worked closely with West Fraser Mills Ltd., which funded the project, and the Hinton Mountain Bike Association (HMBA) which is supporting the project.

A key conversation about putting the project on hold happened in August, around the same time West Fraser announced a week-long production downtime due to on-site log inventories.

Low inventories were due to the unseasonable wet weather conditions whereby log harvesting operations had been impacted.

Hoots’ crew agreed that it may be best to stop work and start again next year.

“We worked really hard with our partners to evaluate budgets and workloads and look at rescheduling where it makes sense,” said Hoots.

Currently, the timeline of when the trail will be completed depends on how the weather holds up next year.

In the meantime, the crew committed to buying and hiring local and they’ve enjoyed their time in the community, said Hoots.

“But in terms of how that translates into a schedule, we can’t promise too much until we know that we have good ground to work with,” he said. 

All materials and tools originally quoted for the project have already been purchased and are just waiting to be used.

Construction of the trail first started in 2018 after Hoots received funding through West Fraser Mills Ltd.