The art of trailbuilding is based on hundreds (or even thousands) of techniques. Each specific one is applicable to some types of geology, but not everyone of them. On top of that, each trailbuilder as perfected is own technique and is using some secrets to create awesome sections of trail. However, 4 fundamental practices must be respected first, in order to create sustainable and safe trails:
  1. Manage water, so it easily drains water and/or does not contaminate surrounding soil.
  2. Avoid soil erosion following the water flow.
  3. Remove any unstable objects (dead wood, rotten stumps, rolling rocks aka Babyheads , roots detached at one end, dead leaves, garnottes , etc…).
  4. Remove the rich organic topsoil before starting work on the trail surface.

​It is essential to teach these basic practices to new people (Green). Leaders and Captains must explain, offer and supervise tasks related to these fundamental aspects, in order to create sustainable and safe trails. Dozens of techniques allow water to quickly flow out of the trail (sloping surface, raised center of the trail, parallel upstream channel, culverts, pipe installations, “waterbars”, etc.), but here it would take too long to explain them all. Dig It draws on the collective knowledge of Leaders and Chapter Operators so that these basic techniques are prioritized and teached in all Chapters.

To illustrate this aspect and to simplify the explanation to Greens , use the example of a golf ball using the trail . By “thinking like a golf ball rolling down the pathway”, it becomes easier to imagine the water trajectory and speed and imagine its route under the influence of gravity. This strong image makes it possible to better visualize this concept and make it more easily to understand by newer trailbuilders. It becomes obvious to build a trail that will easily drain water for anyone new to trailbuilding .

In order to increase the efficiency of chores and promote volunteers’ sense of accomplishment (and their long-term retention), Leaders must always take into account the abilities of the volunteers present, by suggesting tasks that respect their skill level and knowledge. A Leader who prioritizes this ultra-important detail will foster a positive atmosphere in the woods, generating pride and a sense of belonging regarding trailbuilding. This encourages volunteers to sustain their community involvement in the long run.

When all of these premises are taken care of and settled, the experienced trailbuilder can then use their creativity, experience and personal style to improve the layout by adding features. In such a context, the trailbuilder uses his or her own range of knowledge and techniques adapted to the surrounding geology and natural ressources to create a durable, unique and pleasant trail to ride on.

Another basic technique is to get rid of topsoil before starting trail surface. As often seen in trail work done by inexperienced or lazy trailbuilders, topsoil (the rich organic upper layer of soil) is used to build poor and unsustainable trails. This black dirt/humid moss/loam has the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms, and is where most of the biological activity occurs. This biologial activity prevents it from becoming hard and stable. To prevent poor trail work, always remove topsoil using a rake, rogue, or shovel, as this material is not sustainable, does not compact well, and becomes soft when contaminated by water. Using loaded buckets to transport this organic material is a good way to dispose of it discreetly (behind a boulder, between two big rocks, or by spreading it evenly) about 20 steps away on the downhill side of the trail, ensuring it won’t wash back down due to rain or wind action.

Always ensure that the technique used matches the surrounding ecosystem (certainly not all techniques work everywhere). If in doubt, do not hesitate to refer directly to other Leaders or Chapter Operators.