Can You Trust Yourself to Buy and Sell your Home Properly Without a Realtor?

The Canadian real estate market continues to hum along. You may be one of the many people out there who have decided to take the plunge and become a homeowner, or maybe you are looking to sell your home. 

Your friends have tried it, so maybe you decide to go the route of a private sale of your home, embarking on your property search using the tools such as MLS, or craigslist to help you. But what happens when you find that the process stalls and that you are not getting what you want out of the situation?

Has the promise of technology and ease been exaggerated in your case? Could the narrow exposure that your private sale offers keep potential buyers from even knowing about your home? And what about when you find your dream home…but can’t make an appointment to see it without a realtor to represent you in the process?

These are just some of the scenarios that can stand in the way of you buying or selling. If you find yourself in these situations, perhaps it is time to find yourself a good realtor.

For a quick overview of why realtors are invaluable for buying and selling your home, check out the infographic below.


Little-Known Factors That Could Affect Your Home Sale

Realtors offer experience and a network of connections that can be hard to find if you are embarking on this process alone. 


A realtor has a large network of associates, colleagues and mechanisms that will allow you to sell or buy faster and with better results. If selling, your property will be exposed to many more potential buyers through the power of, as well as through other important channels such as social media, the agent’s home website and company website, and through word of mouth through the agent’s network of peers. 

 “Realtors have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which they can access 2 days before the new listings are available on the public MLS website. And having access to the sales history of the property, tax assessment, recent price adjustments, sales history in the area and other critical information can be vital in negotiating the best price for clients.”


A real estate agent will bring his/her experiences to the table. They are privy to much more data and information than we could obtain through private channels. For example, if you are a young family looking for a great neighborhood to raise your children, a realtor can help you find the perfect area. They do so by using their knowledge regarding the schools, parks, shopping and other amenities in the area.

A real estate agent can also help their buyer make informed decisions about all aspects of the building or structure that they potentially could own, such as any problems with structural integrity, liens on the property, strata rules and regulations etc. Finally, when it comes to the negotiating and legal side of buying or selling, a realtor has all the skills and paperwork needed to ensure that you are making the best and most confident decision possible.


When you hire a realtor, they are at your call to help you view that home you love in a timely manner so that another buyer doesn’t snap it up. They are there to negotiate the price on the sale of your home so that you get the best amount possible, and the same goes for when you finally decide to put that offer in on your potential new home.

 “one of the most important key points (that a realtor brings to the table) is honesty and integrity.”


Though many sales take place as a result of website and social media exposure, the majority of real estate transactions continue to occur thanks to the powerful channels of communication between agents. In fact, if you are thinking of buying or selling a home, hiring a realtor may be the wisest decision that you will make. 

The promise and ease of the online world for buying and selling a home has shifted the power firmly in the hands of you, the consumer. Realtors are no longer the gatekeepers to vital home information they once were. However, the numbers don’t lie. 

Despite the advances in technology and availability of alternative sales model options, Canadian realtors continue to play a dominant role in the buying and selling of homes in Canada. 

So, are you planning to use a Realtor the next time you buy or sell a home?

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Consumers are always looking for ways to save money, and paying real estate commissions can amount to tens of thousands these days. Not an insignificant sum to most people. Is it worth it to hire a full-service real estate brokerage over a discount service? Reasonable question. It's one I hear often. And the answer is it depends. 

Type of Marketplace

  • If you're in a seller's market right now, homes are probably selling the minute they hit the multiple listing service. A one-eyed sheep with two paws tied behind her back could plop a home into MLS and get an offer. Will it be the highest price you could get?
  • Buyer's markets exist when inventory exceeds the supply of buyers. In these markets, some homes aren't selling at all. This is where expertise and extra work pays off. Listings that sell at top price are typically those exposed to the most buyers, which are priced well, marketed well and show well.

MLS and the Internet

I cringe when I see new listings hit MLS without a photograph because I know that agents and buyers are passing them over without a second thought. themultiple listing services accept 20 photographs nowadays. For that reason, many full-service agents hire professional photographers and shoot double the photos required. 

  • The pros spend considerable time sorting through photos to select those with the most light, the best angles, sharpest contrast & color. 
  • Photos are cropped and resized to accentuate positive attributes. 
  • Each photograph is entered into MLS with a full-length enticing description.

When I see a photograph taken by the multiple listing service instead of a pro or the agent, I also see a lazy real estate agent who doesn't care enough or isn't getting paid enough to properly market her client's property.


Lots of mom 'n' pop operations and discount brokerages don't spend money on professional signs because they don't believe in it or they can't afford it. Good signage is free advertising. Many full-service firms will advertise: 

  • Main office phone number 
  • Agent's personal cell phone or voice mail number 
  • Web site for more information 
  • Virtual tour links 
  • Specific information that makes this home different from others in the area

Marketing Materials

Full-service companies tend to project quality, and that means four-color flyers and four-color direct mail pieces. The days of hiring neighborhood kids to toss photocopies on neighbors' front steps are gone. Full-service marketing is first class.

Open Houses 

Not all homes are right for an open house, but those that are require finesse. This means working the buyers who come through by pointing out impressive features of the home without making the buyer feel oppressed or hounded, and that in itself is an art. It requires the service of an experienced sales person. Many discount brokers refuse to hold homes open.

Full-service agents counsel sellers. They find out what made the seller decide to buy the home and how that moment happened. Then, they employ that knowledge at open houses. For example, suppose a seller said that moment came when she first stood gazing out at the pool. When she turned to her husband and gasped, "I can't believe we can afford to buy this home." Good sales people at an Open would ask buyers to stand in that same spot by the pool. Then, they'd share the seller's first experience verbatim. 


Real estate is an extremely competitive business, and there are many agents fighting for the same listings. A full-service agent who wins the listing is probably a good negotiator, a person you want on your side during offer negotiations. Think about it. Agents who can persuade you to pay what they feel is reasonable, will probably persuade a buyer to pay your price. Ultimately, that means more money for you.

Final Sales Price

Sometimes full-service agents lose listings because the seller was promised a higher price based on hot air and a lower commission. It's these listings that often show up in MLS a month later with reduced prices. The amount of the price reductions, not surprisingly, tend to exceed the difference in commissions between the dualing agencies! In these scenarios, sellers received fewer services and ended up losing money on the sale as well.

If you can't decide between an agent who charges 1 or 2 percent less than another, think about how you would feel if you had to reduce your sales price, say five percent, to get the house sold. Ask the agents to show you their last 24 months of price reductions and compare them.

How Much Do Agents Make?

Agents are paid by brokers. Brokers retain a portion, sometimes 50%, and pay the balance to the agent. From that, the agent pays her overhead and taxes, which can easily amount to 50% of the net. A listing agent's true salary ranges from 20% to 30% of one-half the commission. Full-service agents typically spend more on overhead than their competitors; by refusing to compromise service, they tend to charge more.

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Canada’s big banks weigh in on how falling oil prices will impact the country’s housing market
Sean MacKay
By: Sean MacKay FEBRUARY 10, 2015

Canada oil prices housingPhoto: Sergio Russo/Flickr

It’s only mid-February, but 2015 has already proven to be full of shocks and surprises for the Canadian economy and the impact is being felt in the country’s housing market.

The steep decline in oil prices caused organizations monitoring the housing market to readjust their forecasts and backpedal on predictions for 2015 and 2016 in a relatively short period.

In November, the OECD predicted that the Bank of Canada would raise its overnight lending rate by May 2015. Many other analysts agreed that a rate hike would likely occur before the end of 2015. Instead, the central bank cut the overnight rate a quarter per cent to 0.75 per cent on January 21st.

As late as mid-November 2014, Calgary was still described as one of Canada’s “red hot” markets, along with Toronto and Vancouver. According to the Calgary Real Estate Board’s latest report, home sales were down 38.9 per cent and new listings were up 39 per cent year-over-year in January. The Globe and Mail published a story on February 4th profiling the negative effects of the oil price slide on the city’s luxury market in late 2014 and early 2015. Clearly the sentiment in the market is less than sunny.

On the heels of the latest release of housing starts data from the CMHC, we combed through some recent reports published by Canada’s major banks to get a reading on the current outlook from market experts.

Read on for a rundown on what the banks’ economics teams are looking at now and down the line for the country’s housing market:

Royal Bank of Canada

  • RBC has had a lot to say on housing in 2015, thus far. In its housing forecast for 2015 and 2016 published in mid-January, RBC downgraded its annual projection for the Alberta resale market in light of oil price declines. The bank said it expected resales to fall by 6.5 per cent in the province in 2015 — a blow to the Alberta market, but not “a knock-out punch.” This report was published prior to the Bank of Canada rate cut and the release of housing sales and price data for January.
  • On February 9th, the bank released an update to its Canadian housing forecast for 2015 and 2016, necessitated by the surprise overnight rate cut, a dimmer view on oil prices in 2015 and a weak Canadian dollar.
  • In the update, the bank said that home resales and prices will benefit from low interest rates on the national level, but market performance will vary tremendously on a regional level with Ontario, BC, Manitoba and Quebec benefiting and Alberta, Saskatchewan and part of Atlantic Canada seeing sharper drops in sales and prices in 2015. The largest decline will be in Alberta, RBC predicted, where resales are now projected to drop by 16 per cent in 2015 and 2.6 per cent in 2016.
  • In a research note published yesterday, economist Laura Cooper wrote that the slowing in housing starts in Canada’s energy-dependent regions “failed to materialize” in January, referring to the CMHC data that showed housing starts increasing month-over-month nationwide, with Alberta showing pronounced strength.
  • Even so, Cooper concluded that housing activity across the country will gear down in 2016 with an interest rate hike expected at some point that year.

Bank of Montreal

  • Reacting to the CMHC’s release of housing starts data for January, BMO economist Benjamin Reitzes called the regional breakdown “a bit curious” and noted that the Prairies were “a surprising source of strength.” Reitzes was quick to point out, however, that starts in the region, particularly Alberta, will likely follow declining home sales within the next few months.
  • Reitzes wrote that starts in Central Canada and BC are expected to maintain last year’s levels while some deceleration is expected from 2014′s pace on the national level.

TD Bank

  • Like most economists, TD was surprised by the strength of the Canadian housing market in 2014, but forecast a softening in sales and prices in the cards for 2015 and 2016. In a quarterly economic forecast report from December 2014, the bank said that it expected the Bank of Canada to remain on hold until October 2015 while describing falling oil prices as “a dark cloud on the horizon.”
  • In a report published on February 9th following the release of housing starts data from the CMHC, economist Randall Bartlett explained that the strength seen in the Prairies “likely reflects momentum from a strong year in housing demand overall in 2014 as opposed to renewed strength.”
  • Bartlett also said that January housing starts do not reflect the Bank of Canada overnight rate cut and that the subsequent drop in lending rates should keep the Canadian housing market “more buoyant than would otherwise be the case.”


  • The bank’s last major comment on the Canadian housing market came from economist Adrienne Warren on January 15th, before the surprise Bank of Canada rate cut announcement. Warren wrote that low borrowing costs, moderate economic growth and favourable demographics will continue to support national housing demand in 2015. She acknowledged that slumping oil prices impact economic fundamental in Western Canada.
  • Responding yesterday to the CMHC’s housing starts data, Scotiabank’s economics team were surprised to see construction activity maintaining its strength in Alberta despite “softness in home prices” and large spike in new listings for December. In the note, the economists were tight-lipped on how they saw things shaking out in oil-producing regions in the next few months, though they said it would be a story they’d watch carefully in the months ahead.
  • Scotiabank is expected to release a comment on CREA’s January home prices and sales data set to be released later this month.
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Top 10 Metro Vancouver developments on BuzzBuzzHome in January 2015
Michael Aynsley
By: Michael Aynsley FEBRUARY 2, 2015

The hottest Vancouver-area developments in the first month of the new year included Kitsilano condos, Main Street townhomes and a Surrey high-rise.

10. West 10th and Maple by Pinnacle


9. The Oxford by Allaire and The Airey Group


8. Midtown by PortLiving


7. Uptown by Bosa Properties

Uptown Coquitlam condos

6. The Independent by Rize Alliance

The Independent Vancouver condos

5. Glasshouse Lofts in Queensborough by Aragon

Glasshouse Lofts New Westminster condos

4. The Amazing Brentwood by Shape Living

The Amazing Brentwood Burnaby condos

3. SOLO District by Appia

Solo District burnaby condos

2. Citti by CM Bay Properties


1. Black+Whites on Foster by Intracorp

Black+Whites-on-Foster-townhomes-CoquitlamThe handsome rowhouse-style townhomes of Black+Whites on Foster are now on sale in Coquitlam. Priced from the low $500,000s, the spacious homes are inspired by 1930s New York architecture and feature private front doors, landscaped yards, attached parking and over-sized windows. Want in? Visit the sales centre and show home today at 548 Foster Avenue.

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I have listed a new property at 1956 WOLFE ST in North Vancouver.
Country living in the City best describes this rare & unique home. Nestled along the lush forested borders of Mission Creek & City Park Lands this peaceful & picturesque property, over a 1/3 acre is a garden sanctuary. The amazing 2497sq ftCharacter Home boasts an abundance of windows providing 4 directional exposures & 3 decks including a 680 SF rooftop oasis. A 606 SF Legal office w/separate entrance, fireplace & 2 sets of French doors leading onto a patio, coupled with a legal 895 SF 1 bdrm & den walkout suite w/private backyard adds incredible versatility & value to this truly one of a kind property. If you have been seeking to find a sense of peace & balance in your life this is a must see. Dreams Welcomed here!
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Please visit our Open House at 3225 MAHON AVE in North Vancouver.
Open House on Saturday, February 14, 2015 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Storybook Character beauty (Circa 1911) in prime Delbrook location. Rare 4 bedrooms up, grand scale dining & living rooms, updated kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops & westerly views to Lions Gate Bridge & beyond.This home shows extremely well from top to bottom. Near new roof, recent paint, new carpets and wide plank laminates in basement. Large recreation with adjoining solarium down plus 5th bedroom or home office. Within two blocks to two highly rated schools; Braemar Elementary (French Immersion) and Ecole Andre-Piolat (French). Large fully fenced lot with lane access. Just a few minutes drive to the new state of the art Griffin Community Centre and Edgemont Village. Hurry on this one!
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I have listed a new property at 3225 MAHON AVE in North Vancouver.
Storybook Character beauty (Circa 1911) in prime Delbrook location. Rare 4 bedrooms up, grand scale dining & living rooms, updated kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops & westerly views to Lions Gate Bridge & beyond.This home shows extremely well from top to bottom. Near new roof, recent paint, new carpets and wide plank laminates in basement. Large recreation with adjoining solarium down plus 5th bedroom or home office. Within two blocks to two highly rated schools; Braemar Elementary (French Immersion) and Ecole Andre-Piolat (French). Large fully fenced lot with lane access. Just a few minutes drive to the new state of the art Griffin Community Centre and Edgemont Village. Hurry on this one!
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A sneak peek at West Quay condos in North Vancouver before previews begin February 14th
FEBRUARY 5, 2015

West Quay North Vancouver condos

In the heart of the North Shore’s desirable Lower Lonsdale waterfront district you’ll find West QuayPolygon‘s latest collection of North Vancouver condos offering a balanced lifestyle and breathtaking views of the city, water and mountain.

This limited collection of one-, two- and three-bedroom residences reflects modern West Coast architecture style. Inside, homes feature open living spaces and sophisticated interior design details including smooth stone counters, laminate wood flooring with radiant in-floor heating, custom cabinetry and sleek stainless steel appliances. Residents will also enjoy access to an onsite fitness studio and social room.

Situated across from Waterfront Park and just a short walk from the Lonsdale Quay on the water, West Quay is just steps away from great local markets, the SeaBus, cafes and shopping. Also close by are the endless adventure opportunities at the local mountains and top-ranked golf courses. Want to get to Vancouver’s bustling downtown core but can’t make the SeaBus? There’s plenty of other convenient transit and commuter routes nearby.

Watch the neighbourhood video below for more info.



West Quay will be open for previews beginning at noon on Saturday, February 14th at 21 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver. To be among the first to know when the sales program will begin, register here.

For more information call 604 871 4474, email or visit the website here.

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This work station that’s also a bunk bed.

space-saving-furniture-6Photos: ResourceFurniture

This collapsible dining set.

multipurpose-furniture-2Photos: Offi

This shelf that hides a table and four chairs.

space-saving-furniturePhotos: imgur

And this movable crate that hides a full bar.

space-saving-furniture-5Photos: Naihanli & Co.

Wheel it around with you wherever you go.

This kitchen in a cube.

transforming-kitchenPhotos: Goci

This mattress that folds up into a comfy chair.

space-saving furniture-4Photos: futonazur

Way more impressive than that tired futon trick.

This one too.

space-saving-furniture-2Photos: behance

This modular shelving unit that can be combined or separated from other modules.

transforming-furnituretransforming furniturePhotos: Resource Furniture

This book case that’s also a reading chair so you can relax.

bookcase chairPhoto: archello

And this couch that’s also a punching bag so you can totally flip out.

transforming-furniture-2Punching bag couchPhotos: Tobias Fränzel Design

This rectangular table that transforms into a round table. FAN Table/Vimeo

Variety is the spice of life.

This picture frame that’s also a table.

space-saving-furniture-3Photos: ivydesign

This patio furniture that stacks into a space-age art piece.

transforming-furniture-1Photos: archello

Fun? Yes. Practical? No.

This table and chairs that fit perfectly together.

space-saving-furniture-1Photos: imgur

And this chair that bears four others.

space-saving furniture-6Photos: dripta

And finally, this entire room that literally fits into a box.

multipurpose-furniture-1Photos: Casulo

In its box-form, the Casulo room measures 31.5 inches by 47 inches and weighs about 375 pounds. Want one? Contact the designers.

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Expert tips to 'upstyle' your home gallery


Last updated 11:32, February 5 2015
STYLISH: It doesn't have to cost a lot to take your home from ordinary to extraordinary - just some careful thought and planning.

STYLISH: It doesn't have to cost a lot to take your home from ordinary to extraordinary - just some careful thought and planning. 


If your home looks good but hasn't quite hit the level of style you've imagined, it could just take a few finishing touches to get there.

The answer is in the detail, and achieving that polished style might be simpler than you think.

Here are five tips from the experts. 

ON TREND: The big colours for this year are skin tones, copper and terracotta, light greys, indigo and lots of green.

ON TREND: The big colours for this year are skin tones, copper and terracotta, light greys, indigo and lots of green. 


1. Get daring with interior doors

Doors are doors, right?

Wrong, says Georgia Ezra from G.A.B.B.E Interior Design, who wants us to get a bit adventurous with our interior entryways.

NICE FIT: These rustic-style doors perfectly suit the houses' beachfront location.

NICE FIT: These rustic-style doors perfectly suit the houses' beachfront location. 


"Remember the first thing people see as they enter the room is the door," Ezra says. "Doors are easily changed if you want to make a feature and add that touch of depth to your space."

Ezra says it's all about tying your entries in with the overall look of your home.

"If the doors are a soft grey, you could match this with the colours of the skirtings and door frames," she suggests. "Or a glass door framed with timber could be stained to match your floor."

GREENERY: Vertical gardens are great if you have a small courtyard or balcony.

GREENERY: Vertical gardens are great if you have a small courtyard or balcony. 


2. Polish up your outdoor space

A great outdoor entertaining space is something many of us have in our sights but it can be hard to get it looking just right.

Charlie Albone from Selling Houses Australia says to lift your balcony or outside entertaining area from average to stunning, you need to think green.

COLOUR WOW: Add a splash of colour to instantly update your home decor.
Mike Baker

COLOUR WOW: Add a splash of colour to instantly update your home decor. 


"Green walls are suitable for any balcony size as they require very little space and decorative or oversized pots add visual appeal and break up a space," Albone says.

Albone advises considering the weather conditions at your place.

If your balcony is in full sun, then herbs, grasses and succulents are best; if it's shaded, cooler climate flowers are the way to go; and if you're in milder temperatures with reliable rainfall, you can look at a wider range.

HIDDEN FROM VIEW: Try to tuck away as much clutter as possible in organised cupboards and drawers.
Kate Geraghty

HIDDEN FROM VIEW: Try to tuck away as much clutter as possible in organised cupboards and drawers. 


3. 'Upstyle' your colour

Changing wall colours is one of the easiest and most effective ways to upstyle your home.

Valspar's Sarah Stephenson says you need to put some thought into it first.

BRIGHT LIGHT: LED lights add a modern feel.
Armelle Habib

BRIGHT LIGHT: LED lights add a modern feel.

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24_604 logo on black is your Vancouver Video Tour Guide to adventurous activities, amazing places to eat, and the best spots for a night out. We’ve partnered with V.I.A. to bring you a new segment each week here on the blog. 24/604 is a locally created show by Red Line Media Inc. Produced by Var Bhalla and Derek Wong.

Dogs, Cats, Rabbits, they are just some of the animals that are part of every family, and providing the safest and best care for them as a family member is of the utmost importance.  Starting today, the BC SPCA is celebrating their Million Acts of Kindness campaign, and our Lifestyle Host Angelina Rai had a chance to visit their facilities.




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Our friends at The Peak are REPORTING that Main Street is going to be transformed into a giant slip and slide/waterslide this coming June 14th, Car Free Day!


The folks behind, a community initiative, write “This Father’s day (June 14 2015), bring your floaties, bring your costumes and bring your rubber duckies, Slide the main will be Mount Pleasant’s first water slide bringing together the community for a day of awesomeness under the sun. We are expecting around 150,000 attendees to be coming out to the 11th annual Car Free Day. We’ll be getting a DJ to play some music and it’s gonna be an awesome party!”

There’s been no official statement made from the folks who run Car Free Day so we can’t officially confirm it yet but if this happens, it will be amazing.

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The old Marble Arch restored to its original look and name, Hotel Canada (1914 and 2015)

The old Marble Arch restored to its original look and name, Hotel Canada (1914 and 2015)

Vancouver’s Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels are an important part of our built heritage. Their numbers have seriously diminished over the years, but the survivors give the oldest part of town much of its heritage character. The majority were built during the boom years between 1908 and 1913 to accommodate the flood of seasonal workers coming into town, especially loggers from camps around the province. Though designed as temporary lodging, resource workers often settled in for good after they retired, and today SROs continue to serve as permanent affordable housing.

Years of severe neglect made these hotels derelict and barely habitable. BC Housing now owns many of them, and they’ve teamed up with the feds and private sector partners to restore thirteen of themto ensure they’ll be part of Vancouver’s streetscape for years to come. Collectively these buildings house 900 of the most marginalized Vancouverites. The restoration project is unprecedented in its scope and is being done in stages. Tenants are being temporarily relocated during construction and all have the option of returning to much more dignified digs than what they left.

The old Washington Hotel restored to its original look and name, the Maple Hotel (1935 and 2015).

The old Washington Hotel on Hastings near Main restored to its original look and name, the Maple Hotel (1935 and 2015).

Wherever possible and practical, surviving heritage elements have been or will be restored or even recreated from the original building plans and old photos, such as the new cornice and sign on the Maple Hotel (formerly the Washington) just west of Main on Hastings. In some cases, long hidden artifacts have been uncovered. Several ghost signs on the side of Hotel Canada include the original hand-painted sign advertising the hotel and another from its days as the Marble Arch, and one that says “Export,” likely a remnant of an old cigarette ad. The Hazelwood Hotel, a longtime Hastings Street blemish, will have its entrance opened up and flanked by the original, long-buried doric columns.

Some of the SROs are too far gone to get the full heritage treatment. It wasn’t long ago that the Marr Hotel on Powell Street was a contender for being the most unruly and decrepit SRO hotel in the Downtown Eastside. In contrast, Angus Secord built it in 1890 as a booze-free, family-friendly hotel and “a quiet, cheerful, comfortable residence.” Shoddy renovations, neglect, and abuse over the years have left virtually no heritage features to restore, so the renovations will be less elaborate than some of the other buildings.

The Marr Hotel on Powell Street. The inset photo shows it when it was brand new and named the Secord Hotel (1890 and 2011). This SRO is being renovated, but those groovy wrap-around balconies won't be making a comeback.

The Marr Hotel on Powell Street. The inset photo shows it when it was brand new and named the Secord Hotel (1890 and 2011). This SRO is being renovated, but those groovy wrap-around balconies won’t be making a comeback.

I normally focus on social and cultural history rather than heritage conservation, but these SROs often make cameos in stories I come across. In Vancouver Confidential, I wrote about some proto-Cold War intrigue going on in the Globe Hotel, or Tamura House, in Japantown. When boxing legend Jack Johnson came to Vancouver with a white woman in 1909 shortly after becoming world champ, the Dominion Hotel was the only one in town willing to rent to the mixed race couple. Tommy Chong came here in the 1950s to pursue a music career with his R&B band and found his first Vancouver home at the Hazelwood, located just a few blocks from where he later stumbled into his true calling as half the comedy duo Cheech & Chong. More infamously, the Broadway Hotel — now called the Sunrise and soon to revert to its original name, Hotel Irving — was such a notorious drug hotspot in the 1950s that Hastings and Columbia was known across Canada simply as “The Corner,” a dubious reputation that has since drifted over to Main and Hastings. Similarly, the Maple Hotel changed its name in 1935 to disassociate it from the nefarious reputation of the previous owner, Joe Celona, who ran it as a brothel. Its old name and look have now been restored.

Renovations at all thirteen SROs should be complete by 2016 at a total cost of $143.3 million.


Thanks to architect, engineer, and heritage preservation consultant Barry McGinn for details on the SRO project.

Historical photo credits: Hotel Canada (1914) by WJ Moore (cropped), City of Vancouver Archives #PAN N216; Maple Hotel (1935), CVA #Hot N65; Secord Hotel (1890), CVA #Hot P85.

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The following (huge) story appeared in Privateermagazine #10 (August/September ’12). I feel extremely fortunate to be able to work with Privateer because they truly aim to tell the story of mountain biking behind the “news” and “releases”. More so, when I handed them my ridiculously large story regarding the history of the North Shore of Vancouver they didn’t laugh at me but rather gave the story the page space and the room to breath in the layout. When I started this project I knew it was going to be a beast. The more I researched the more I found the story went deeper and deeper. In the end I had to focus on just a few elements of the history (and save the rest for later). The questions I sought to answer with this story were: when did mountain bikes first appear on the Shore and how did that forge the future of the trails? One thing that might surprise some people is that mountain bikes were around for a long time on the Shore before the radical freeriding North Shore style emerged. In fact, the freeride style of ladder bridges, skinnies, and hucks came very late.

I would like to thank all the people who gave me their time and passion regarding this project. It was a huge undertaking to interview so many people (and track some of them down), most of which are mentioned in this story but others who don’t feature but whose insight really helped. Thank you to Sarah Fenton, Chad Romalis, Jerry Willows, Dan Cowan, Wade Simmons, Todd Fiander, Mark Wood, Cam McRae (, Lee Lau, Jonny Smoke, Jim Leppard particularly, but I ask for forgiveness if I left your name out as so many other people I met on the Shore helped anecdotally. I would not have been able to even begin this project unless I had moved to the Shore last winter and just let the tide of history ripple over me every time I spoke with a rider there. Thank you North Vancouver, BC.

I posted this here in the hopes that it pushes more people to tracking down and reading Privateer Magazine. In issue ten alone there were so many other amazing stories from all around the world and village of mountain biking. Each issue of Privateer is similarly jam-packed with inspirational and interesting stories. Subscriptions are available worldwide and although it might seem pricey, each issue is a keeper. I have a complete set that is pride of place on its own shelf.

Everything Goes In Cycles
The North Shore Lineage
By Seb Kemp

There are formidable fossils in these hills. Backbones of giants and skeletons of beasts lie on the forest floor slowly being consumed by the forest as decay and neglect set in. They are the decrepit remains of once mighty monsters that delighted and terrified the local inhabitants in equal measure.

They came from seed and grew to titans until one day when man or wind turned their heavenly ascent into a short lifetime of lying prostrate. Appropriated and roughly fabricated they were reincarnated as contraptions upon which mortal men would test their capacity to balance on the thin edge between disaster and triumph. Now they slowly die again and become part of the natural cycle of the forest once more.

The North Shore mountains have seen many cycles already and the rainforest barely registers the more recent activities of man under its canopy.

The mighty cedars that once dominated the North Shore mountains once grew to magnificent giants, some 300 feet tall, until land was cheap and wood was valued high. In the later half of the 19th century and for nearly the next one hundred years the North Vancouver was extensively logged as demand for building materials rose dramatically as ships building, railway lines, and housing boomed. The tearing of saws and razor edged thumping of axes took down the hulking trunks. The canopy was torn further back like the lid on a tin can. All that remained was burnt out, hacked stumps and a littered floor of forestry cast offs piled upon each other in a jumble of timber. The towering rainforest columns that inhaled our waste and exhaled our life force were gone. Left open to the tireless Pacific storms rain battered the exposed slopes and washed the good soil downhill leaving just rock, wasting logs, and burn piles.

Eventually the forest regenerated, but the character was different. Hemlock, maple, fir and young cedar choke and crowd out much of the light. Deep duff coats the forest floor; a spongy matt of organic material made up mostly of the bits of tree that have shed. Log jams of rotting trees abound, thick roots lace through the matt and hunks of granite pierce through it all. The terrain is steep and haphazard, you can feel the sensation of claustrophobia and vertigo simultaneously.

It is dark, it is wet, and it is cluttered. No wonder then that when you stand amongst the soaring glass towers of downtown Vancouver and look north to the range of mountains that act as the opening drum beat of the Coast Mountain Range orchestra – Cypress most westerly, Grouse (or Fromme) Mountain centre stage and Seymour most easterly – all you can think is what a lovely backdrop the North Shore mountains give the city. It is even harder to imagine that just fifteen minutes from the bustle of the metropolis there is a labyrinth of mountain biking trails that somewhat redefined what was possible on a bicycle and are the birthplace and resting place of the most extraordinary, and frankly bizarre, environmental reinterpretations.

The history and legacy of trail building on the North Shore is remarkable. Arguably “The Shore” has inspired and evolved more aspects of mountain biking than any other area in the world. The progressive nature of trails that were being built on the North Shore of Vancouver have had a considerable and lasting impact mountain biking trends. These trails changed how we think bikes can be rode, they steered the technological direction of the sport, and they made it possible to grin because you just got away with it. Whatever it is.

While the sport of mountain biking can be somewhat fairly claimed to be invented in Marin Country, up the coast and across the border there were fat tire rumblings not long after. The hot spot above the 49th parallel was in a remote enclave of Vancouver called Deep Cove.

Deep Cove in the late seventies and early eighties was a bohemian little community of alternative folk who were attracted by the low cost of real estate and fringe location. The residents squeezed into the available land where Seymour mountain’s forested side slides into the bay off the Indian Arm, a branch of the Burrard Inlet at the easternmost point of North Vancouver. All that attached them to cosmopolitan Vancouver was a dusty road or a short paddle by kayak. It was so cut off and detached from Vancouver that people didn’t even know it was there, which was perfect for the foot loose and fancy free locals. Most of the townsfolk were devoted outdoor sportspeople who had adopted a lifestyle that would allow them to ski, kayak, waterski, or, soon to be, bike as much they wished.

Chaz Romalis and his buddies were ski and bike bums before the term even became rooted in such sports. They were all enrolled in college but only because it was the only way their parents would still house them, feed them and allow them as much time to indulge in their sporting passions – biking and waterskiing in the summer, skiing in the winter. Chaz and his friends began hybridizing bikes to suit their means, “Cruisers were what we called them. We were getting old bikes and spreading the back end open so we could make them multi-speed. Then we started to drive down to Santa Barbara to get Schwinn beach cruisers. We would stop in and buy Magura handlebars and brakes, you know, motorcycle stuff because it was the only thing that was strong enough for what we were doing.”

They weren’t the only ones north-of-the-border to be doing this but in their eyes they had no peers except for the righteous dudes in Marin County. The two-way trafficking of west coast cultural ingredients is something Chaz Romalis certainly remembers. He particularly attributes one particular west coast institution for the spark to open his enterprise.

“There was a Cove Bikes in Marin County as well. It was them that gave us the idea and know how to open a shop. We would go down every six weeks to ride. Santa Barbara was the mecca to ride. At the same time we would pick up parts. It was also a great excuse to party it up, ride our arses off and bring back cool parts.”

Upon returning from yet another mind-expanding road trip south and under pressure from their parents to get a job, Charles “Chaz” Romalis, Doug “Dewey” Lafavor, and Ashley “Nummers” Walker banded together to open Deep Cove Bike Shop.

At first they were building up off-road bicycles from cruisers frames with gears laced into 26” rims, but later they started specializing in Trailmaster cruisers built by the Koski Bros. in Tiburon, California and Cook Bros. cruisers from Santa Ana, California. Most of the bikes and parts had to be bought in the States and the prices reflected that. A Schwinn bike built up with a five speeds was sold for $2000. An astronomical price even Chaz would admit, but that was what you had to pay to get the genuine thing and people were willing to pay for it. The Cove boys were building a movement and anybody wanting to be in it had to pay the going rate. It was the price of cool.

“Looking at it from the outside, it seemed a little unprofessional. They opened at noon so they could waterski in the mornings and they had ‘an anything goes attitude’” affectionately recalls Sarah Fenton, a rider who grew up in Deep Cove. “The shop and its heady aroma seemed, to all of us, the kind of hedonistic life we all wanted to lead when we grew up, and we wanted to emulate them. You felt cool just by walking through those doors, which looking back, was the best marketing tool pre-internet possible.  The boys wanted to be like them, the girls wanted to date them, and most of us did, she chuckles.”

As well as the bikes and parts they imported they brought the California culture with them too. They played Bob Marley and Frank Zappa records, wore boards-shorts not Spandex, had long hair and a Cali-drawl. They were cool and they knew it.

“At Cove there was an image. I’m not joking when I say it was just like The Fast Times at Ridgemount High. The attitude was unreal. However, the attitude was what made it. The arrogance and swagger made that place. I remember riding downhill and through the door of the shop with Frank Zappa playing. You felt like you had to buy something or these guys were going to kill you. It was a scene and a vibe. Legends hung out there.” Johnny Smoke also grew up in Deep Cove but was much younger than the Cove boys back at that time. Years later he would wind up working at the legendary store.

Without really trying the Cove boys were building a cult based off their aloof and devil may care image. “Everyone wanted to be like them, to emulate them. Boys wanted to be like them and girls wanted to date them, and most of us did at various stages”, chuckles Sarah.

But it wasn’t just the scene that was getting people excited, it was the deep rainforest on their doorstep and the opportunity it presented.

At the time most riding was done on skidder roads or in some cases hiking trails like the Baden Powell (broken up into sections but which make up a 48 KM traverse from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay) or Old Buck on Seymour. The trails were rough by the standards of the day but towards the later half of the 80s riders were looking for more adventurous trails. As well as the main hiking arteries there were a number of informal spurs trodden in by hikers wishing to access the higher elevations. Severed Dick (formally known as Good Samaritan) was one such trail and it was soon adopted by the bikers. It still is a rowdy line but back then it must have been atrocious to try and ride on fully rigid bikes with U-Brakes and bubble tires. This trail marked the start of something entirely different from the California scene and where the baton of progress was picked up by a different crew entirely.

“All the Cove boys were much older than us so we didn’t know what they were up to.
So I would get hiking books and figure out where the trails were. It took a long time till I realized that Chaz and Cove boys were riding more on double track, like road riding. I was trying to ride all these hairy hiking trails thinking that’s what the Cove boys were doing, but they weren’t.” Johnny Smoke recalls feeling even more isolated from his home crew than he thought. Then one day around 1991, while out riding on Seymour, he crew stumbled on a group of guys who had a similar outlook. The crew consisted of “Mountain Bike Mike” MacGregor, Todd “Digger” Fiander and “Dangerous” Dan Cowan. They were from across the Lynn Valley watershed and their home mountain was Fromme Mountain to the west. Unbeknown to either party, there had been parallel pioneering going on.

Jim Leppard, more familiar with the riding and riders on Fromme remembers, “There were lots of cliques. Deep Cove on Seymour had their own identity and they were ahead in many respects but we never saw Deep Cove because they were so far away.” Deep Cove to Lynn Valley (the community at the base of Fromme) takes ten minutes by car these days but in the 80s the transport network was still haphazard. A ride to an from Deep Cove by way of the Baden Powell trail could be an all day affair so these groups had remained isolated.

On Fromme (often referred to as Grouse mountain because of its proximity to the ski resort of that name) things were brewing. However, they had grown restless of winding up the forestry tracks then across and down hiking trails so they began to carve their own not so cheap thrills.

Ross Kirkwood had collaborated with Brian Ford to build “Kirkford”, and then moved onto building “Griffin”, and later, “7th Secret”. Mountain Bike Mike and Goat Legs Gabe had been explored all the mountain roads before scratching ludicrous descents like GMG. Jim Leppard had begun to explore his own lines and started out on “Oilcan” but at the time knew nothing of the other riders who were laying down the infrastructure. “I didn’t really know other people. I think I met guys who built “Pipeline” once, but I can’t be sure. I just saw some guys with tools in the distance”. Part of this was due to the Secret Trail Society whose mandate was to “keep trails hidden and the location of the trailheads passed on”. The goods were sub rosa.

At the time one particular man became addicted to putting his hands in the dirt and who would perhaps become the single most key person to putting the North Vancouver trails on the map. But there were a few decisive moments of providence between now and then.

Todd Fiander (more widely known as Digger for reasons that will become obvious) was a young guy with a passion for these new bikes. Throughout the 80s he and his chumleys (his phrase for his riding pals) would explore all the hiking trails, but there was always parts that were unrideable so he carved little reroutes. Then over on Brothers Creek road (an area of old growth forest on Cypress mountain) he made short sections of trail between the switchbacks. These detours and short cuts were pretty primitive, nothing more than fall line on the soft forgiving loam.

It was early freeriding before there was even such a thing. Corridors were cleared in the forest undergrowth and riders would skim downhill amongst the wood pillars. But it was the next trail that Digger helped work on, “The BIG I”, that the North Shore’s greatest contribution and startling innovation was laid.

While kicking foliage out of the way for this trail to pass Digger stumbled upon a rough cedar plank six inches wide about ten feet long and placed it over a divot that was about three feet deep. This was the very first “stunt” ever to be put on a trail and the effect it had got everyone hooked. “You were only three feet off the ground and there was a bank on either side to catch you, but it was the scariest thing. We freaked out every time we rode over it, but it wasn’t much.” Digger enthuses. Now riding these off-road bikes was not just for traveling to far off places, but as machines of thrill and danger.

It was around this time that the steep and deep mantra of the local powder skiing fraternity took hold. Rock faces were linked together to make a sequence of challenging moves down terrifying chutes or up and over hideous granite slabs. Trails like GMG, Expresso and Grannies started to explore the radical nature of the terrain. They slithered over and around the forest detritus, staking claim to the gnarliest of bits and taking the path of least resistance. This was far removed from the Californian style of plaid jacket clunking or Lycra mountain bike racing.

Then as the 90s dawned two particular figures rolled onto the Shore. With contrasting outlooks both of these pioneers added the last vital ingredients to the heady cocktail. Dan Cowan and Wade Simmons both arrived on the scene at almost the same time but from very different backgrounds and with widely different visions. Dan Cowan was a local boy who became instantly hooked on the thrills of the forest. Once he learnt of the secret trails he became committed to finding and mastering them.

Dan had a gift for muscling and finessing his way through terrain like no one else. He also had bravado in spadefuls, hence why Digger proclaimed upon first meeting him, “you’re dangerous” and the name stuck. He also had a fierce work ethic which he applied to building his own lines.

He started where “The Big I” finished off and started trying to continue the line further down over burly rock faces. However, it was when incorporated an obstacle into the trail that things changed gears.

Previously, fallen logs had been incorporated in so much as riders would ride over them using either their chain ring to climb over (these “humper logs” became the inspiration for bash guards) or perhaps small cedar ramps allowed riders to pass over them. However, no one, until Dangerous Dan arrived had thought to ride along the logs.

“Back then it was a novelty. You could say to your friends, ‘we rode the log ride today’ and they would know exactly what you meant and where it was because it was the only one. Nowadays they are everywhere.” Dan says proudly.

It was the start of the elevated phase and the builders were about to get really high.

On Fromme Digger was working on his new magnum opus, “Ladies Only”. It was this trail that brought all the elements of what was happening on the Shore and pioneered building techniques that would forever change the Shore and have far-reaching impact on the rest of the world.

Digger had been bridging small sections of trail using naturally occurring cedar planks for sometime but it struck him that he could span larger sections using ladder bridges made from the natural materials found in abundance in the forest. The wet coastal weather that beats into the mountains there results in an average of 166 days of precipitation a year. The terrain is wet and the ground underfoot is layered with a dense coat of organic material. Building trails is arduous work as creeks and marshlands need. The western red cedar that grows in the Pacific Northwest is tough, hardy and naturally resistant to rot so this wonder wood was put to use. Building bridges became not just the easiest, but the only way to link a complete trail in many cases. The North Shore was the first riding zone anywhere to integrate a ladder bridge in trail design.

Dangerous Dan recalls, “He was about half way through it [Ladies Only] when he said ‘yeah I’m going to build these ladder bridges across these mud pits.’ I immediately thought what a great idea. I can just build that anywhere as long as you have the right materials. And that is when the ladder bridge craze started.”

Like leap frog Digger and Dan were propelling each other forward with each break through the other would make. Dangerous Dan, however, had a William Webb Ellis moment and started running away in the most unsportsmanlike way. Dan possessed rather prodigious level of bike balance. Digger remembers “Dan is the kind of guys that could ride on one of those concrete meridians down Cypress, the whole way down. Five inches wide, three foot high on the side of the road, he would just ride all the way down.” Dan realized he has this rather unique skills so started building to his advantage. This was when Dan started to build his portfolio of preposterous trails where he made the ladder bridges narrower and narrower until they discarded the slats and just rode on the stringers. Then he began to elevate them higher and higher until they were merely balance beams hung somewhat towards the forest canopy. “A Walk In The Clouds” was the first trail which cast off from terra firma and became circus stunts in the sky.

These trails were built by Dan for Dan. These weren’t a community resource but rather Dan’s own treasures. However, other builders began to adopt the skinnie style and even though they didn’t reach for the same dizzy heights as Dan’s trails they did have imagination.

“It was like that game Mousetrap.” Wade Simmons remembers it as fun and games, “You would go for a ride for 3-4 hours and ride maybe only 2km because all you do is session. It was like skateboarding where kids try and rail slide for hours.”

The new challenge had slowed things down on the Shore remarkably. Built originally to allow easier movement through the dank forest, the woodwork was becoming the focus of the ride. Trails were now deliberately awkward.

Sterling Lorence, a rider as much as a photographic documentarian of the North Shore emergence remembers the trails as much for their mental strain as physical demands. “You would get mind fucked by Dan’s trails. You would be relieved and stoked if you finished one clean. You wouldn’t need to keep riding, it was enough to do one trail. It was just so scary and so technically challenging.”

The second rider to arrive on the scene was Wade Simmons. A former BMX and XC racing whippet he had a radically different way of seeing what was right in front of the North Shore riders eyes.

“Coming from Kamloops and having my BMX skills I opened their eyes to a different way of riding; a little more high speed, carving corners, bunny-hopping over things, pumping the terrain, you know. They were more about slow speed, trials Shore style.”

Wade continued to bring his BMX repertoire to the Shore and between he and Dan they pushed things skyward, literally and metaphorically, until someone had to notice. We have to remember still that this was the early nineties and bikes were rigid, brakes were just good intentions and stems were rudders. However, by the mid nineties technological innovation was gaining ground on demand but still, all this manufacturing and technological innovation needed a sales pitch.

Johnny Smoke summarizes the moment where it all came together. “It was the perfect storm: bikes were starting to work, trails got unique, then Wade Simmons turns up and shows everyone is what is up. Everyone had being riding for ten or fifteen years and this kids turns up and revolutionizes the paradigm of what is possible on a bike. Then the media grasp onto it and it becomes a marketeers dream.”

In 1997, Bike Magazine had printed a story about a small group of Canadian riders who were getting radical by riding their bikes down exposed clay cliffs and gravel quarries in the BC interior. The hyperbole that the article (and the release of Pulp Traction video around the same time) launched the careers of several Kamloops extremists. The industry grasped onto these totems and held them aloft as innovators and pioneers. Dangerous Dan felt that the glory that was being showered upon these guys was unjustified so he wrote a letter to the editor of Bike Magazine telling them about the underground scene of overpass building freaks.

By 1998 everyone knew about the Shore and they were just as hungry for it as any amount of sandbox skidding. Mitchell Scott had penned a story in Bike Magazine to uncover the truth to the rumours of Ewok workings; the story and accompanying photos became legendary. Sterling Lorence, a young West Vancouver chap who rode the Shore religiously had started trying to capture the scenes that were unfolding around him. His first roll of black and white film scored him a cover of the hallowed Bike Magazine Photo Annual that year and several other shots from that same roll became iconic images. The dark, moody, grainy monochrome images somehow took the chaos of the rain forest and made it simple, crisp, and highly graphic. You didn’t need to be a mountain biker to relate to the scene in the images. No translation was necessary.

“People thirsted for the style and look of the Shore because of the drama it had.” Being one of the few photographers to even dare brave the light starved forest and to so deftly capture the essence of it Sterling found his work was, and continues to be, in demand.

The same year two videos were released that focused in on the Shore – Kranked and North Shore Xtreme. The former was almost thirty six minutes of replicated gravel sliding broken only by a short North Shore section. The latter starred almost exclusively North Shore trails and riders. It was also put together by the man with a stake in everything North Shore, yep you guessed it, Digger.

North Shore Xtreme took the underground trails of the Shore and played them out in living rooms across the globe. Suddenly it was the hot ticket. The trails, the attire, equipment and the riding techniques was thrust into the limelight and fueled a world wide hunger for the gnar of the Shore. Riders instantly began migrating there and even now you can find imitations all over the globe, from Surrey to Moscow riders were building and riding “North Shore”. The North Shore became more than a place or even a movement, it became a noun.

Wade Simmons has been around the world and seen the impact of the North Shore first hand, “The steep and deep stuff you can get a lot of places, but the sensational stuff is what stuck and what people remember us for”.

However, not everyone was happy. The trails were on public land and the bikers didn’t have legal authority to build trails. There was criticism leveled at the riders and builders for environmental damage done to the forest and other land users felt their territory was being encroached on by hooligans with no regard for the safety of themselves, those around them or the environment.

North Vancouver Councillor Ernie Crist and local resident Monica Craver were the most outspoken, but of all the ‘villains’ the bikers have had over the years the most dangerous was the “Trails Terrorist”. No one knew exactly who this shadowy figure was, all they knew was that trails were being deliberately sabotaged to inflict serious bodily harm. Boobie-traps were laid, broken glass laid across trails, spears leveled at head height, ladder bridges cut so they would collapse under the weight of riders, planks removed from ladders; malicious acts purposely intended to cause injury. One popular theory was that the “trail terrorist” was a wealthy West Vancouver plastic surgeon

“He didn’t like mountain bikers at all, he thought we were ruining the trails. The trails he thought we were ruining we had built. Without us there wouldn’t be a trail for him to be walking on.” Digger, with a hands-on knowledge of the history of the Shore feels there was no blurry lines.

For a while things were rather scary. Eventually West Vancouver put up signs that said that it was a criminal offense to put obstacles on the trails and that calmed things down for a bit. People tried to catch the offender but no one could catch the suspect red handed. The vigilante acts soon died down, but perhaps because the war was about to radically change.

Digger remembers walking into the woods with his video camera one day. He was planning on filming on one of Dan’s trails, “Reaper”. “We walked in to the woods and thought we had gone into the trail the wrong way, but then we see the log, all cut up into pieces, and we are talking about a big log. So we go down further and the whole trail is massacred. We run into Sterling Lorence who had gone down a few other trails that morning and he told us they were all massacred. Everything.”

The West Vancouver council had had enough. They attacked the problem with barbed teeth and remorseless aggression. Complaints from residents of neighbouring areas and the fear of a liability lawsuit hung over their heads, but really set it off was because a young kid had ruptured his spleen falling off a stunt.

The North Shore extremist’s mantra of “Build it high, build it skinnie, build it sick” had caught up with them. Dan was seen as the ring leader, “The trail the kid fell off was not mine. Lots of other people were building these really stupid stunts so the West Vancouver district got involved and chainsawed the whole thing done.”

Around the same time the North Vancouver district ordered Dan to dismantle a trail on Fromme called “Swollen Uvula”. They said they were going to sue anyone involved with the trails if anyone got hurt on them.

It must be said that the ownership and management of the North Shore territory is not so straightforward. Cypress is under the jurisdiction (for the most part) of The City of West Vancouver, which also happens to be Canada’s richest municipality. Both Seymour and Grouse (Fromme) are under the jurisdiction of The City and District of North Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver Regional District. There are also other stakeholders like the British Properties (Guinness family), Grouse and Seymour recreational areas, as well as BC Parks.

Mountain biking is blind to these boundaries and the “Dog Town-esque creativity, honest fun, and danger, had no precedence. We weren’t influenced by anything but nature and possibilities we imagined”, says Sterling Lorence.

Of course, that kind of talk is what makes lawyers either jump for joy or jump out the window. At one point there was even talk of outlawing mountain biking. However, anytime you have conflict it brings people together and provides a foundation for people to stand shoulder to shoulder. “It was a dark time but it was unifying. It was bad for Dan, but it brought us together.” remarks Johnny Smoke.

The unification occurred when bikers descended on City Hall in the hundreds to object to the mountain biking being banned. Bikers, for years just handfuls of splinter cells of the same faction and operating completely in isolation saw that their own passion was shared by many others.

At this time the NSMBA (North Shore Mountain Bike Association) was also formed. There had been previously a lack of a grassroots organization capable of formulating a united response to land access threats. In response to this reality and the rumours in the winter of 1997 that Grouse Mountain Ski Resort were going to charge user fees for the trails, an impromptu and informal meeting at the Black Bear pub between Ken Maude, Lee Lau and Digger resulted in the decision to form a mountain bike advocacy group for the North Shore. After much discussion, a name was chosen, an executive was elected and a decision was made to incorporate as a not-for-profit society.

The NSMBA set about rectifying the negative public image of bikers. Then relationships with landowners were established and trail maintenance days were initiated to show the public that bikers were responsible stewards. Within their own circles bikers began to self-police. Word was spreading that things had to settle down for a while; building new trails or frivolous stunts would not be tolerated. Of course, this meant Dan and the niche he had made for himself was neutered. Other riders, like Wade, with more transferrable skill sets, were able to weather the storm and branch out. In fact, Wade Simmons won the very first Red Bull Rampage event in 2001. He had become famous for navigating the slick, wet, narrows of the North Shore but on the dry exposed mesas of Utah he spread his wings by out-maneuvering and dropping any and all comers.

Dan left the Shore in 2004 and moved to a tiny island in the Howe Sound where he continues to build the wildest, most ridiculous “trails” imaginable. “I speak to people from all over the world who build trails that imitate what I did back then. I went to India last year to do a demo for a guy who has built this amazing bike park full of skinnies.”

Digger kept building stunts for his NSX movies (there were ten in total), secreting away stashes of stunts that only he could find. That is until 2005 when Digger was given Cease and Desist order by District of North Vancouver Council and told not to step foot on Fromme again. It wasn’t until the winter of 2010 that he returned and quietly began bringing Ladies Only back to life. It is firmly agreed that this trail is the epitome and pinnacle of trail building.

The rest of the world moved on in many regards. Freeriding had took hold but it grew well beyond the awkward tight trails, skinnies and maneuvers of the Shore standard. BMX filtered in, jumps, gaps and tricks took over.

“The Massacre stalled mountain biking in Vancouver. There was a pause. The world was watching and wanted to come but we couldn’t invite them. Instead we pushed them away. Now when people come to BC they go to to Whistler or Squamish, North Van is deadened”, Sterling laments.

In 1999 Whistler Bike Park opened for business. Located 125km north of Vancouver, boasting a wide range of terrain that was easily accessed (chairlift!) this was the logical next step for freeride and recreational mountain biking. People wanted to get their rocks off and Whistler was the easy lady willing to hand it out, for a price.

Over the last decade the Shore settled down. The NSMBA and its hard working, dedicated volunteers have been laying the foundations for the next thirty years on the Shore. Trails are recognized and mountain biking is here to stay. Their work to get mountain biking accepted has paid off, not only on the offices of land managers and council boardrooms, but in the eyes of the public. These days there are more people mountain biking on the Shore than ever before. The demographics are far more spread than in the past too. It isn’t just twenty-something kick-backs with a Cali drawl or armour clad warriors going into battle with the wildest of torture machines. Now there are kids, parents, women, retirees as well.

The trails have evolved too. The oldest lines have worn down to channels in the forest’s organic mattress. Some are so worn that they bear no resemblance to the originals, other have been patched some many times that the character of the trail is forever changed. Some trails have been forgotten and reclaimed by the forest. The wooden features have mutated. They have fallen down, been taken down, or just reclaimed by nature. Trees fall, logs rot, the forest is animated with the cycle of life and death. The area these trails are on has been through far more than any amount of mischief that these mad men on their flying machines could do.

The movement has returned to crafting more natural lines. Also, there is a strong and silent renegade movement. These trails are “loamers”, and just like the very first trails they are barely etched in lines over the top of the duffy loam, no stunts, nothing built, secret entrances.

Jerry Willows, a rider who moved to the Shore at the height of the madness and who is was responsible for building trails that progressed beyond the downhill trials of the Shore thinks everything is in order and the cycle is complete. “Started renegade and you still have to have renegade people out there building stuff. There is a lot of land and a lot of people don’t want to be part of an organization where they are told what to build, where to build and that sort of stuff.”

The cycle of birth, death and re-birth feds everything in nature, in life, in the universe. The North Shore is just a tiny microcosm of that and where the specific ingredients came together to something unique and special to happen.

I would like to thank all the people who gave me the time to interview them and who answered my many questions. I would like to thank the board members of who also assisted in organizing the smokey history into some sort of order. There are many more stories and themes related to the history of the Shore but which could not be included due to space and thematic necessity. Next time.

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Healthy Banana Cookies Recipe
These chewy bites are so tasty, the kids won't know they're sugar-free.READY IN 50 mins

Healthy Banana Cookies

  • PREP

    15 mins
  • COOK

    20 mins

    50 mins


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Stir in oats, dates, oil, and vanilla. Mix well, and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly brown.
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North Vancouver's Twin Bridge taken out after rock slide

Brent Richter / North Shore News 

January 30, 2015 04:45 PM

 The Twin Bridge that once spanned the Seymour River and was a popular connection for trail users is no more.

The bridge had been closed since the Dec. 7 rock slide that caused the river to begin pooling until some of Metro Vancouver’s staff were calling the body of water a new lake.

Contractors removed the bridge this week after geotechnical experts and engineers advised it was “completely substandard,” said Bob Cavill, Metro Vancouver watershed division manager.

As of Wednesday, the level of the water was well below the old bridge deck but it continues to rise and fall dramatically based on rainfall and, to a lesser extent, settling of the boulders from the rock slide, Cavill said. Even with the variances, the bridge had to go.

“The depth of the river is far deeper than it’s ever been in recorded history. The bridge was designed for a much different river than what exists there now,” he said.

Engineers contracted to remove the bridge did so in such a way that it could be kept intact and stored for possible reuse down the road (or river), Cavill said.

bridgeThe Twin Bridges submersed in water. - supplied

District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services members are being briefed on the new dangers the body of water will present to adventurers who are tempted to treat it as a new swimming hole when warm weather arrives.

As it stands right now with unstable banks, falling tree snags, and unpredictable water flow, the area remains dangerous, Cavill said.

“Until we get a better handle on just how that new piece of gorge responds to intense rainfall events and that type of thing, our advice will be to just stay away from the area,” he said.

The exact implications for future salmon runs still aren’t known as the boulders have created a likely fish barrier, but the Seymour Salmonid Society and Department of Fisheries and Oceans are looking into options.

That may include a tagging program or possibly a trap-and-truck system to get the fish to their spawning grounds.

bridgeThe Twin Bridges before the rock slide. - Doug Foot, North Shore News

Metro staff are also still trying to figure out the long-term plan for the trails lost to flooding. The Fishermans’ Trail on the east side of the river remains closed, as does the connecting Bottle Top Trail.

“I don’t think there will be an early decision on trail connectivity but we’re the maintainer of those trails. We have a vested interest and we’ll look at whatever options are available down the road,” he said.

Though the rock slide, bridge and trail network are mainly all within Metro’s jurisdiction, District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton said Friday he would like to see the bridge replaced.

“We want that bridge back, if not there, we want a way for folks to get across. That’s a critical link in the recreational trail system,” he said.

Because the water still flows, it’s technically not correct to call it a lake, Cavill said, and the appropriate term would be “pondage.”

As for what to call the pondage: “We haven’t turned our mind to it,” Cavill said.

 © 2015 North Shore News
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Vancouver real estate: detached homes spark bidding wars

Real estate agents say locals, not mainland Chinese buyers, are driving the market

CBC News Posted: Jan 30, 2015 8:22 AM PT Last Updated: Jan 30, 2015 1:21 PM PT

This house on East 60th in East Vancouver, which is listed at $899,000, had 31 offers according to the real estate agent.

This house on East 60th in East Vancouver, which is listed at $899,000, had 31 offers according to the real estate agent. ( 


Detached homes in Vancouver are being snapped up by local buyers, with some going for more than 20 percent over the asking price, according to local real estate agents.

Macdonald Realty's Clair Rockel said one home at 401 East 21st was listed for a little below market value at $1.289 million, but after 10 offers it sold for $250,000 over the asking price.

Rockel said despite concerns about mainland Chinese buyers driving up prices, all of the bidders on that home were individuals living in the Lower Mainland.

"We've had more than one listing already in 2015 with multiple interested parties and selling over asking and none of those have been Chinese buyers."

Other agents have experienced the same thing. Royal Lepage's Sebastien Albrecht said a recent South Vancouver property listed at $899,000 had 31 offers.

Vancouver house

This house on East 21st in Vancouver sold for $250,000 over the asking price of $1.289 million. (The Rockel Group)

"I think that it's telling us there is not a lot of supply, in particular with houses ... and an incredible amount of demand," said Albrecht.

It's unclear whether the activity is being driven by falling interest rates. Last week the Bank of Canada dropped its overnight lending rate to 0.75 per cent, leading some banks to drop their prime rates by 0.15 per cent to 2.85 per cent.

But with no official 2015 numbers yet, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation market analyst Robyn Adamache said it is too early say whether the recent sales are signs of a solid trend.

"As you know a month of data does not a trend make, and we generally like to see conditions stable for about two quarters before we would say it's a buyers market or a sellers market," said Adamache.

The major factors to the detached housing market staying strong are job growth and low interest rates, she said.

With files from Richard Zussman


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I have sold a property at 615 4001 MT SEYMOUR in North Vancouver.
The MAPLES, an award winning family friendly complex. Don't let the address fool you... amidst pristine gardens, this 3 bedroom home has room to roam for the whole family. Bright, open concept living on the main floor with a BRAND NEW kitchen, new oak hardwood flooring & a slider out to a deck with a relaxing outlook to the 14th hole of the Seymour Golf Course. The upper bedroom floor (freshly re-carpeted) features a NEW bathroom and a big master with a walk-in closet large enough to accommodate a future en-suite bathroom. Big family room & finished flex area down in a full basement. Walk out and up to a fenced rear yard. For the energy conscious, don't miss the recent furnace replacement, retrofit double glazed windows and beefed up insulation. Kids will love the saltwater pool and playground area. Flexible Possession. There is something here for everyone!
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