By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: March. 24, 2012
When Cliff Miller first came to Squamish from Philadelphia in 1989, among his belongings was a mountain bike.
Initially, it didn’t find much use in Squamish.
“There weren’t a lot of trails, and there were no club to promote them either,” Miller said, reminiscing about his early days in town.
Miller had discovered– and ripped– a few trails with John French, but he wanted to give the sport of mountain biking in Squamish a certain organisational structure.
The result was Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association (SORCA), created twenty years ago in a café in Garibaldi Estates.
Now, more than 500 avid mountain bikers find common purpose in it now.
But twenty years ago, it was just a “couple of guys drinking beer and riding bikes” that decided to create an organisation around mountain biking.
Cliff Miller recalls 15 or so people who came to create form an official mountain biking club at Quinn’s Café, now the Sushi Sen restaurant.
Journalist John French says mountain biking in Squamish, now a major tourist draw, was on the fringes in the early 90s.
There were only a few people interested in it, he noted, although they made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in numbers.
As a pioneer SORCA member, French helped build five mountain biking trails, such as Mike’s loop by Alice Lake, Root 99, and Dead End Loop.
“We were interested in old logging roads that were not completely overgrown, and we found lots of it,” he said laughing.
Cliff Miller estimates SORCA has created as many as 25 new mountain biking trail routes in Squamish.
“We just went there with a few tools and did it,” he said.
As SORCA developed new trails, it also pushed mountain biking trails on the agenda of those who made decision regarding them.
“We met with landowners, worked with trails society, and we pushed the district to create a trails coordinator position,” Miller said.
It’s a measure of SORCA’s success that trails in the community have gained recognition from BC Timber sales, which is giving it a dollar for every metre of area logged in the Skookum Creek.
SORCA’s real contribution, however, lies in putting Squamish trails on the world map. Squamish is consistently rated as one of the best places for mountain biking in niche and mainstream media.
Developing the trail system and carving Squamish as a mountain biking destination wouldn’t have been possible without SORCA, says John French.
“From a tourism perspective, this has been the biggest thing,” French said.
For Suzanne Clark, SORCA has also provided a chance to be a part of the mountain biking community.
When she joined SORCA, it had been in existence for a few years.
“It was really difficult to meet like-minded people here, and SORCA was grassroots club that gave me the opportunity to do that,” she said.
What she misses still– and cherishes the most—is its grassroots nature.
There were instance, she said, when the executive would stand make a motion just before a group ride.
“I miss that,” she said.