I have mixed opinions about the way things are going. I found myself agreeing very easily with Charlie's comments. But on the other hand, it's nice for people who aren't into risking themselves to get out on the trails too.
I've lived in places where MTB was very marginalized due to the fact that there were so few participants that they had no leverage. Trails were closed and nothing was legal. Getting large amounts of people into the sport has changed that, and there is support for legal trails in many places where there previously not.
However, I find it frustrating and insulting when beginner trails get all the funding, and expert level trails are closed, or not approved to be built in the first place, even if there are volunteers wanting to build them. Without the expert riders of today who've been riding, building and spending many thousands of dollars over the last 20 or more years, there would not be a sport called MTB. It seems like a total lack of respect when many multiples of thousands of dollars are spent on trails that aren't even remotely fitting the description of what MTB is to many of the expert riders, while at the same time the trails that these riders want are not approved, shut down, or machined flat.
Using the 'sustainable' label really gets me wound up as well, especially since it's other MTB riders who've perpetuated this misnomer and other user groups and authorities have latched onto it and used it against us. There's nothing about MTBs that is sustainable. How many 10 year old MTBs are still in use today? How many are in landfill? How many tires, brake pads, grips, saddles, gallons of shock oil, cracked frames, shit forks etc etc are in landfill? Helmets, shoes, jerseys, shorts… How about gas for road trips, shuttles, getting to the local trails. How about flights to Whistler from Australia? Energy to run the lifts, and the digging machines?
The one single that about MTB that could possibly called sustainable is our trails. And if you really want to get into details, the ones that the forest can take back the fastest would by definition be the most sustainable. This does not include trails that are stripped down to mineral with every last sign of plant life extracted from it at a width of 1.5m.
To call a steep and rooty singletrack unsustainable shows a complete lack of understanding of what that even means. Calling it high maintenance would be accurate. Or call it highly technical, and not liked by less skilled riders after the rain has had its way would also be accurate.
Here's a hypothetical experiment to determine which type of trails are worse for the environment…
Build a Half Nelson trail and a 19th hole trail side by side. Let riders have at 'er for 2 years and then close the trail. Then build one more of each 2 meters to the outside. Keep doing this for 50 years. You'd have a 40m wide clear cut from 25 HN style trails that removed all vegetation that is partially starting to regrow small trees. On the other side you'd maybe see evidence of the last 10 years worth of 19th style trails, with only the last 2 being very visible and virtually all the large trees intact and many seriously large ones.
Sustainable doesn't mean low maintenance. It doesn't mean creating a massive scar on the terrain, killing all plant life and insects. It means something being able to recover as fast as it is consumed so it doesn't upset the balance.
Since that whole notion is simply a bullshit excuse, there's no reason to build machine built trails over steep, soon to be rutted singletrack other than 'preference'. Unless of course you really wanted to kill a bunch of trees and all the other stuff, in which case you'd use a machine.
So fuck all those people who think that their new definition of MTB deserves all the cash and efforts from the local clubs, or worse, deserves to be machined right over top of what is already in place, while they shut down our efforts to build more of what we want in the name of the sustainability. Especially if they just showed up with their fancy new eco-terrorizing carbon bits, that I spent many thousands of dollars contributing to R[HTML_REMOVED]D over the last 2 decades while they were out road biking.
Even if the trails that experts generally couldn't care less about get all the cash, the least the other camp can do is let us continue to build what we want for free (and leave our existing trails free from machine influence), especially since we are the more environmentally sustainable of the bunch. To coin a phrase I hear a bit lately; "if you don't like it, don't ride it."