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August 23, 2011

Mountain Biking: Squamish’s Powersmart, Plum Smuggler, and Word of Mouth

Filed under: British Columbia, British Columbia, MTB Travel, Travel — anotherheader @ 7:14 pm

Powersmart is one of our favorite Squamish rides.  I’ve started a ride report this way before but it remains true.  Steep and often loose at the top, this mountain biking trail is committing and challenging.  Unfortunately, with the slope and the tread composition, steep, loose, and committing does not make necessarily make for a stable trail.  Off the cycle of trail rehabilitation, after a heavy winter, and slippery wet after the recent rains, the upper portion of Powersmart was beyond us.  Fortunately further down the hill the slope slackens and the trail conditions improve.  The short hike-a-bike down hill after setting the shuttle is a small down payment on the fun that remains on the trails below.  Indeed, by the time Powersmart turns into IMBAsmart and Lower Powersmart, the slopes have slackened and the tread damage from the season’s heavy precipitation is forgotten.

Becky on the new section of Word of Mouth

The loamy tread of IMBAsmart and Lower Powersmart rolls over frequent rock and root step-downs.  These modest root drops can be taken at speed; when dry, the roots are a small challenge.  IMBAsmart and Lower Powersmart are classic Squamish intermediate trails.  Sure these trails might easily be labeled as black diamond advanced or more in other riding locals.  Back home, they’d be as challenging as any around.  Still, though they may be technical and tricky in spots, these are not stressful, high penalty point trails.

There is one problem, though.  The Powersmart sequence ends.  Fortunately this is Squamish and the end of most trails is where another set of trails begins.  After all, the Squamish municipality claims more trail mileage than road mileage.  For our ride we looked at the map and decided to link through Plum Smuggler to Word of Mouth.

Relatively level, Plum Smuggler rolls through open ferny forest.  A couple of build-ups and a modest whaleback granite section make good challenges.  Somehow we had missed this gem before.

After Plum Smuggler, we continued on Word of Mouth.  This is a trail we’d done before.  WoM has a larger amount of split rail wood build-ups than is typical in Squamish.  The build-ups include one very long, very high, and, fortunately for us, very wide bridge across a low area.  It’s one of Squamish’s many trail features that put us in awe of the amount of effort put into the design and construction of the trails by the local builders.

New for us this year is a substantial extension to Word of Mouth.  WoM is now significantly longer than it was when we first rode it.  With an exit not so far from Quest University Word of Mouth squeezes the last drops of fun out of the hill.

Curiously the character of the new lower section of WoM is different.  The turns are tighter and, despite fewer build-ups, the trail is slower and more technical.  It feels like the new portion of the trail has a different designer.  Though I worked constantly to maintain balance and navigate the obstacles, nothing required a stop for line scouting.  With all the bursts needed to maneuver, I was out of breath riding downhill. New or old, Word of Mouth is good trail entertainment.

In Squamish we inevitably ride past the entrances of many trails we’ve not yet sampled.  We can only wonder what lies past these trailheads.  Is it another gem like Powersmart, Plum Smuggler or Word of Mouth?  It is a question will keep us coming back.

Trail finding:

The Squamish trail map changes more frequently than any I have seen.  Be sure to check in at the local bike shops, Corsa, Tantalus, and Republic for the latest map and up-to-date trail information.

Word of Mouth has been configured for night riding


  1. Thanks for the write-up – some of the best info out there!

    Comment by Greg S — September 20, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

  2. That was a great write-up. I built the trails (Plum Smugglers and Word of Mouth) and appreciate the appreciation. The extension to WoM is different because of the terrain. Brutal route finding through miles of salal on the edge of a gorge limited my options. Eventually it’ll get smoother and less technical.

    Comment by Gary — October 4, 2011 @ 12:03 am

    • Thanks for the effort! From first hand experience I know how hard it is to scout and build a trail in an area where the brush is thick and the side slope is steep. The slow-speed technical character of the trail is a good compliment to the other trails in the area.

      Comment by anotherheader — October 4, 2011 @ 7:39 am

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