Made famous in several mountain bike films and countless web edits, Squamish trails; Half Nelson and Full Nelson, have become known worldwide. Their builder, Ted Tempany and his team, however, have remained somewhat in the shadows of their creations
Ted is the owner and founder of Dream Wizards, a professional trail building company, and can be found at the end of a shovel or at the controls of one of his machines most days. His machines have threaded kilometer after kilometer of brown ribbons through the green forests of Squamish.
Last year marked the 15-year anniversary of Ted building trails in the Squamish area. This year was Dream Wizard’s 10th year not only building, but also donating equipment and hours back into the world famous trails of the Sea to Sky corridor. Usually a man of few words, unless you are talking about the trails he has donated countless hours of his time to maintain, Rob Dunnet was able to get him to open up about the depth and scope of his long career.
When you moved to Whistler in 1992 was that a temporary move or did you know you were going to stay?
As a kid I was very fortunate to ski a few days a week in ski areas around Banff. The tourists on the chair would always tell me how lucky I was to grow up skiing in the Rockies, but there was always talk of Whistler among the hardcore crowd. Fortress allowed snowboarding and at that time not many places did, so Blackcomb always was the place to migrate to. Whistler was the place everyone talked about on the chair. Whistler was far more than I had ever expected, every time I traveled it, it confirmed my decision to make the Sea to Sky home.
With mountain biking in its infancy was your move driven by the urge to be a ski bum?
In the beginning mountain biking was something I did when there was no snow. My dream was to get featured in a ski movie. Finally Bill Heath asked a few of us to ride mountain bikes down Blackcomb for a Warren Miller film. I was blown away; my friends and I hurled ourselves off cornices, hit features in the new terrain park and raced each other down cat skinner in the moguls. We had a blast, riding some serious terrain clean after a few big crashes. Only our crashes made the final cut. It became my mission to film some real mountain biking and Warren Miller really set me in motion. Guillaume Tessier and I started filming not long after that.
Were you building trails in Whistler at that time?
There were a few core builders in Whistler at that time. My friends and I would walk in to the forest looking of new challenges, sometimes they were easy to find usually right off the side of existing roads and trails. We had a good idea of what we could do, but wanted to ride our bikes down the mountain like we skied. Are there any memorable trails that you were involved in during your Whistler years?
A couple of trails that stand out in my mind are Crazy Train and South of Heaven. My friends and I built some of the first true mountain bike trails on Blackcomb and Whistler. There was a group of us, we all pitched in to build trails that were steep and challenging. Later on I helped PK build a trail called Joyride on Whistler.
Were you building for contests and movies when you were living in Whistler?
| Everyone on the coast rode Kona Stinkys it seemed, but red, yellow, and green Kona meant Clump rider. So you knew they were kind of a big deal. |
Some of the features and trails we were building started getting filmed by Christian Begin and the Kranked crew. As soon as a feature was finished Schley and Tippie would be in there filming. We weren’t just building trail we helped build some of the first freeride careers. It was sometime after that when I met John Cowan through my riding partner Graham Kuerbis. John and Graham were doing Kona Jump demos at car dealerships and had developed a real bond on the road complete with endless Top Gun Quotes. They had a regular Maverick and Goose relationship. GK was the first guy I saw trying backflips on his Rasta coloured Kona Stinky. Everyone on the coast rode Kona Stinkys it seemed, but red, yellow, and green Kona meant Clump rider. So you knew they were kind of a big deal.
How did you meet Big D?
Richey or Tippie introduced me to Big D in Whistler probably at the Boot where I worked for a dozen years or more, but it wasn’t until I saw Big D filming Swartz and Bourdo hitting a huge step down gap in Kamloops that I realized he was taking it to another level. Every NWD movie was better than last. It is the hardest part of producing any action sport film and Big D was the King of progression. He used to tell me, all killer, no filler.
You have said before that you were a “hired gun” for NWD, how did this start?
For the longest time we were just building things to ride, the film was secondary. It wasn't until later on when Big D offered me a salary just to build features for the NWD series and help find a new location for the Rampage. I moved dirt for the whole cast of NWD at one point or another. Bourdo took us to a spot where the many nugs lay hidden in the Utah dirt and he hit everything raw. Not many guys are doing that anymore.
What riders were your favourite to dig for?
A better question is who did I really like to dig with, haha. John Cowan by far. It wasn’t until later on that Tom Hey and some of his gang were digging with us. Things were getting pretty serious at the progression factory and Tom’s smart ass comments always help keep things light. Wait a minute here, we were always
Ted Tempany cuts down dead trees that have fallen over an existing mountain bike trail in Squamish. Photographer: John Gibson
working like SOBs at Cowschwichtz. Digging with your friends is the best. Most of the builds I remember the challenges and fun we had and everything we learned got applied to the process for the next thing we wanted to find and build. Days digging with John Cowan were fun. The mouth from the South taught me so much about machines, jumps, sponsors and travel. John was good at building jumps and I was good at interpreting terrain. Timo always showed up ready to throw down.
| Ted Tempany building another trail in Squamish with the Mini Excavator. Photographer: John Gibson|
You were involved in builds for the biggest contests, what build do you think had the most impact on the sport?
In 2002-03 I found myself building the first slope style in Montana. I had met Shaums March while racing DH, we had an idea to build a bunch of big jumps on snow. With Redbull, Pinkbike, and a couple of builders we sat around a table and drew features on pieces of paper. We then laid out the features on the slope, everybody helped build the course and Redbull Freezeride was born. I believe it was the first time that anyone had used the term Slope Style for a mountain bike event.
Did you ever imagine that Slopestyle would evolve into what it is today?
I knew slopestyle comps would be the future; the natural terrain big mountain riding is only good in very specific locations with all the perfect conditions. A pro rider could search his whole season trying to find the perfect natural line or grab a few friends and shovels and create a line that is ten times more exciting to ride and entertaining for us to watch. Even in an almost perfect location like what we found outside Virgin, the hillside gets worked with tools before riders can throw down their ultimate run. The Rampage site looks like a really big bike park after the hundreds of builders are done shaping lines for the competition.
You moved to Squamish in 1999, what was the driving force behind moving to Squamish?
Winter had long lost its grasp on me. I had spent a great deal of time in Squamish through the 90’s. The mild winters make riding possible year round. GK was born and raised in Squamish and we spent everyday riding in Whistler or Squamish. We were already building in Squamish, John and Graham were natural jumpers and I knew DH speed, so together we started building jumps into downhill lines. The guys at Tantalus Bike Shop helped me make the transition to Squamish and always made me feel welcomed.
When did you start building trail in Squamish? Why? What was the first trail that you built?
I started building here in an effort to restore some of the trails that had become terribly eroded. At that time the riders in Squamish were shuttling nonstop and the trails were not built to handle that many riders in wet conditions. Many of the Squamish classics had fallen into disrepair and I had lots of free time to do trail upgrades. Looking back now the trails were actually pretty mint! I started to make corners rounder, building grade reversals and just getting the trails to flow better. There were only a couple of trails to shuttle up Diamondhead, so in 2000 I built Cakewalk. Later on we built P’nuts (people stopped riding 19th proper at this time) down to Pseudo for a fundraiser to raise money for Graham Kuerbis. One day soon I’d would like to do a big rebuild the of DH trails we’ve put so much time into over the years.
Trailbuilder Ted Tempany and Jackson rides the Half Nelson Trail. Photographer: John Gibson
Shortly after Ted moved to Squamish Graham Kuerbis went down on a log ride on Pink Starfish and hurt himself badly. Ted and friends built P’nuts (which has become 19th hole) to raise money for Graham. The GK Ripper was held for 10 years and would go on to raise over $100,000 for people with spinal cord injuries. Is it true that you were racing World Cups during this time and you were building to make an impact on your racing career?
Yeah, Diamondhead was where I rode DH. I guess it was training, but we were just having fun trying to ride as fast as possible.
Yes, I raced the best in the world for a bit. It was a humbling experience. Every race would introduce me to a new challenge or something that was fun to ride and I tried to incorporate those sections into the trails here in town. High lines over roots, small gaps, compressions, and big round fast off camber turns became things I looked for and built into the trails. Because of my time on the DH race scene the downhill trails in town are still really challenging to this day!
| Rise premiered in Whistler at the GLC and line up to get in was all the way up the hill to the Joyride Bikercross course! |
You started filming your own edits in early 2001, how did that come about?
I met Warwick Patterson at a race out east in the late 90’s. Warwick later filmed a movie called The Circus following the World Cup DH scene. It was really good and made me want to shoot something about our little mountain scene. Our first movie was called Rise and a bunch of people contributed to make it happen. A bunch of kids were always hanging out in Tantalus and we started riding together and later filming. It was probably the best fun ever riding with those guys.
Warwick really helped me make the transition to videographer. Rise premiered in Whistler at the GLC and line up to get in was all the way up the hill to the Joyride Bikercross course! From the archives - a 2003 interview with Warwick Patterson and Ted Tempany.What were the reasons that you stopped filming and started focusing on trail building?
It was too much to build and film. I have a tonne of respect for anyone that can pull it off, even for a three-minute web edit! I had invested a bunch of money into camera gear and an editing computer and then everything changed to HD. It was hard to justify the investment in new gear for something that wasn't making any money in return. Producing quality content takes a big budget.
Can you tell me how Half Nelson and Full Nelson came about?
| We were so stoked when we got the go ahead to use an excavator to build trail in 2009! |
The idea of building a machine built trail began years before the concept for Half Nelson was conceived. We were building incredible features with machines in other places for mountain bike movies and contests, but lacked the permission we needed to tear through the forest here on the coast with diesel power. You have to remember we were not authorized to trail build up to this point and by the time Mike Nelson secured approval for construction Half Nelson I had already been volunteer trail building by hand for over fifteen years between Whistler and Squamish. You get very good at picking good lines when you are using hand tools. We were so stoked when we got the go ahead to use an excavator to build trail in 2009!
SORCA asked a few contractors to bid on the trail. They had flagged a rough line and acquired $100,000 to spend on the new trail, but with all the bridgework it wasn’t enough to pay for the trail outright. In the end Dream Wizards built the trail for $50,000 so some of the other dedicated trail builders in town saw some of the money to upgrade other trails in need. The other builders got hired to work on other trail improvements projects around town. And by spending the grant money on trails Mike was able to get section 57’s for more trails in town. Everybody wins!
Brandon Semenuk hits a jump on Half Nelson while trailbuilder Ted Tempany looks on. Photographer: John Gibson
What is one of your highlights from those early film trips?
On a film trip to Utah with Gualluimme Tessier, Kurtis Croy, JJ Dessourmaux, and Chad Onsychuk, we built lines and filmed where the original Rampage contest was held. Dean Williamson owned a bike shop and toured us up to these huge red cliffs on his birthday and we shots guns. I shit myself, for real, and not because of the guns. Utah was big and scary; it was everything we dreamed of. If you have the nuts you can do anything. Watson pinned it off everything he was a natural, JJ and Chad hit the some big gaps we built with various results. We had little experience with the air and speed and we ate it lots. I think it’s in one of the Kranked movies. It was a long time ago, but that was the trip that really humbled me. The original Red Bull Rampage event came to fruition not long after that.
Dream Wizards was started in 2006 and in 2008 you were part of the crew that brought Rampage back, how did that come about? How involved were you?
Big D, Axle, Todd Barber, and I talked about it at Interbike. Todd wanted to do a Red Bull Signature Series Event. Its working title was RB Rage and Todd needed something next level. Red Bull was done with Rampage at that time. I suggested that we could build features in the desert for a contest using wood and machines. I made some clay models for demonstrating how I’d like to add to the terrain for Red Bull.The fresh new approach was what Red Bull needed and the Evolution was born. We spent a lot of time in the Utah desert that year looking for places to shoot with the NWD guys, but we were also scouting locations for the next Rampage. On a trip to Virgin with the Athertons we stumbled on a new bridge over the river to a new housing development.
Even with Interbike being so close, Spomer was the only guy to show up during the build that first year back. I guess the media types were over Rampage or we were just to well hidden in the ridges below Gooseberry. A few of the riders were apprehensive while most of the big guns had been waiting for the revival and were super amped. It was invite only at that time still.
Were you involved in the 2010 Rampage?
We passed on the 2010 event. After waiting for two years for the next event my nerves got the best of me, it was a tough call. Todd told me he was going to do a qualify day and that scared me a bit. A bunch of the athletes wanted less built features, the organizer was tight and could have treated my build crew better. CG and I had designed this crazy feature with an artist from Oakley that Bourdo had scoped out the previous event; trucking in water from our condo in St. George. We had busted our asses building the infrastructure, features and pioneering a new zone. It took everything out of me in 2008. I really never want anyone to get hurt on anything I build, but with this event it’s just a matter of time. Luckily, Paddy Kaye was there to pick up the slack and it eventually let to the rebirth of Joyride as a Slopestyle event.
In 2010 you shifted your focus from video parts and contest builds to the Sea to Sky corridor. What were your main reasons for taking a step out of the limelight?
Well, I wouldn’t say anything about stepping out of the limelight. As a builder you are behind the scenes, the reward is seeing something you have created get shredded. I was always digging in Squamish. My first love has always been trails. The traveling was getting tiring and the pressure to build bigger gnarlier features.
I have never liked sticking out. When you have spent your whole life trying to blend in the limelight isn't good. I prefer hiding out in forest creating trails.
I made the choice to go 100% legit. Squamish became my only focus. I had acquired the skills to build really good quality trails
| Course Builder Ted Tempany at Red Bull Rampage. Photographer: John Gibson|2014 and 2015 were big volume years for Dream Wizards, how many kilometers of trail did you build?
This my 15th year building trail in Squamish. There have been some sacrifices just so I can build trail everyday. The contest and video parts weren't something I was looking for, it just happened that way. Now we have the equipment and crew to do amazing things in the forest. In 2014 three of us cranked out over 20km of trail in the Sea to Sky. About 5km of that I was volunteering and Dream Wizards donated the equipment and crew.You started riding a lot more in 2015, did riding more reignite your passion for trail building?
We build better trail when we ride, no question. Dream Wizards was in Kelowna for a big chunk of time in the fall, is building trail in other communities something you hope to do more of?
We get offered trail work all over the place, but Squamish is my favourite place to build. I have been focused on Squamish exclusively for the last five years. I was burnt out on traveling, but building in Kelowna was a breath of fresh air. How has the trail network in Squamish evolved in the last 15 years?
I moved to town at a time when there were fewer riders. I wouldn't see hardly anyone riding trails in the winter months. Thousands of people have moved here over the last fifteen years just so they can ride year round. It is taking its toll on the trails.
| We have a party everyday on the trail! |
| Ted Tempany building another trail in Squamish with the Mini Excavator. Photographer: John Gibson|
July marked Dream Wizard’s 10th anniversary as a trail building company, what did you do to celebrate? Why did you decide to adjust the bottom portion of Half Nelson?
At the time we were about 8 weeks into rebuilding the bottom of Half Nelson. We also donated our equipment to fix Mike’s Loop, Rob’s Corners, and Tracks from Hell. It was a great way to celebrate our ten year anniversary. I love constantly learning as a trail builder with each new challenge you are faced and this Half Nelson rebuild really reinforced how far we have come in the last six years. Trails are almost always built with small budgets and tight deadlines, so it's always a bonus to go back in and do tweaks. Thankful to have permission from province and also lucky to own the equipment and have the time to give back to our community.
We have a party everyday on the trail!
Dream Wizards has a few ongoing volunteer projects we are working on. I believe in giving back and improving our backyard. We have the equipment to do amazing things.
Can we get one story about The Boot in Whistler?
For over a decade the Boot allowed me to work at night and ride and build during the day. Everybody I worked with supported my bike racing by covering shifts and welcoming me back every fall after each race season. It really made it all possible.
After ten years my friend Ben decided it was time to sell the bar. As a parting gift he gave me enough money to buy a Sony PD170. He really made Rise possible.
The Boot was the best. The people I worked with were great, the people that came into the bar came for a good time. We had some incredible entertainment come through over the years. It was a great atmosphere that I miss.
Ted has gone from rogue trail builder hiding in the woods to a hired professional on the road for some of the biggest film productions and events in the industry. With an organized trail building company and a yard full of machines with his name on them, most days you can still find him in the lush Squamish forest with a shovel in his hands. And one thing you will never hear from Ted is that much of his time spent with his crew and machinery working in the woods is volunteered. And even after 15 years of donating time and machines to building trails in Squamish, Dream Wizards and Ted don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
| Half Nelson trailbuilder Ted Tempany. Photographer: John Gibson|
If you see Ted and his crew working on a trail in Squamish or your local community stop by and say hello and give him a follow on Instagram @dreamwizards. He is always interested to know what you think of his trails.