The Perfect Line

Vincent Ready floats The Separator, one of the largest wooden trail structures in British Columbia’s interior. The feature is a highlight of the DH Hipsta trail, which was built near McLeese Lake by First Journey Trails and James Doerfling as part of the Trails to Recovery and Resilience program. The mile-long DH track is maintained by members of the Xat’sull Nation, formerly known as the Soda Creek First Nation.

The Perfect Line James Doerfling Finds His New Path

I hear labored breathing through the speaker of my phone and a halting voice says, “Sorry, I’m just pushing my way up a hill in the forest, trying to find a new line for a trail.”

The voice belongs to James Doerfling, one of the world’s most influential big mountain freeriders and a professional trail builder. I’ve caught him out scouting for a new trail he’s going to build for the Williams Lake First Nation in British Columbia’s remote Cariboo Chilcotin region.

James has always had an eye for finding unique lines. As a young man, he started to explore the mountain ranges that surrounded his hometown of Williams Lake, B.C., with a few trusted friends. He spent countless hours surveying the rocky peaks, carefully studying ridgelines and spires for potentially rideable scree chutes. Few people could even imagine riding a mountain bike down such deadly terrain, but for James, what he saw was infinite possibility. He was an artist, envisioning his next masterpiece—one that he would expertly draw on an unforgiving canvas of rock and rubble.

For years, he threw himself down narrow flumes that dropped hundreds of feet between jagged spines, flowing onto near-vertical debris fields left behind from ancient landslides. He carved graceful, sweeping turns, kicking up long clouds of dust and inspiring a hearty handful of fellow freeriders to venture farther into the backcountry in search of first descents.

I first learned of James through a mutual friend, Thomas Schoen, owner of First Journey Trails, a company that has been building trails throughout the province since 2008. Thomas and I launched the Indigenous Youth Mountain Bike Program in 2014, with the goal of engaging Indigenous communities and getting youth onto the land to ride mountain bikes and build trails. Upon completing trails with several Secwépemc and Tsilhqot’in Nations, we threw an opening celebration that Thomas invited James to attend. 

 

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