For most people, the biking season in Fort St. James is likely from May until September or October.
There may be some who are more dedicated, and push into November, depending on snow.
But if you’re Eric Ravnaas, you pretty much ride year-round on the local trails, snow or no snow.
“We have an awesome set of trails here,” said Ravnaas.
He likes riding the local mountain bike trails so much he does not quit when winter sets in and the snow begins to fall.
Instead, Ravnaas shovels a section of trail (for those who know the trails by name, from Boneyard to the top of Lumpy’s).
Ravanaas estimates the section of trail he maintains at four kilometres long. He said he does get help from Jeff Jones, a coworker who is also a dedicated mountain biker and can be seen riding his bike to work at the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Management through the winter, but Ravnaas doesn’t look at it as work.
“No biggy at all – it’s perfect,” said Ravnaas, who called the shovelling a win-win, as he gets exercise from the shovelling to keep himself in shape, and then also gets to ride the trails after. He said he normally goes out to shovel for a couple of hours at a time.
While he said the trails can be a little more challenging with snow and ice in some sections, he doesn’t even use studded tires, which Jones does, he just lets out some air from his tires to increase the traction and goes for it.
“It’s just so smooth, it’s so much fun,” he said.
Ravnaas credits his job with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Management with allowing him the time to work on the trails. When he gets sections of leave in December and January, he gets out and tries to keep the trails clear while it snows.
This time of year, as the trail goes through the freeze-thaw cycle, it can get icy, so Ravnaas sands the trails, carrying up sand in a pack frame or in buckets.
Once the snow and ice are gone, he will work on 14-16 km of trails with a rake to maintain the trails.
His goal is to keep the trails from degrading, and he said the man who built many of the trails years ago had a keen eye for where to put them on the landscape.
Ravnaas said he didn’t come up with the idea to keep the trails open in the winter himself, and credits Gord Martin with that, but said he has been doing it for many years and can’t remember when he started.
Ravnaas is only loosely affiliated with the local mountain biking club, and doesn’t ask for help from other members, enjoying the job himself at this point.
“I kind of love living in this little cocoon,” he said.
“When they do the autopsy on me, they’re going to find out my skull’s a little thicker,” he joked.
The fifty-six year-old doesn’t just do it for himself either, he knows his work helps others who walk, bike or run the trails.
“A lot of people enjoy it,” he said.
He approaches the job with a very pragmatic attitude.
“I’m kind of of the mind that if you want to go do it, you have to get out and put the work in,” he said.