This can only be appreciate once you have put in the blood sweat and o so many tears to figure out and EXPERIENCE FIRST HAND, what does and does not work.
I agree with this statement wholeheartedly, however I don't know if it was directed in any specific direction although I can assure you Mark and Lora have built in almost every single type of terrain possible. Most of their experience gained while living out of a simple subaru station wagon for two years.
As for the well respected builder(s) telling you to use more dirt and less rock… their intentions are right however their wording is wrong. What this specific builder might be referring to is the basic design principals for sustainable trails. By following them then you will be able to use more dirt and less rock. However when people are adopting trails on the shore, like you Ian. Then you don't have the real ability to cut a sustainable trail and are forced to do more trail hardening by using rock and wood.
Talking about creating sustainable trails on the north shore that follow basic design principals recommended by IMBA. Well in my 9 years of riding on the 3 local mountains probably only a small handful of trails, and I'm talking less than 10[HTML_REMOVED]#37;, have the chance to be sustainable and long lasting without heavy maintenance. What do I mean? The most of the trails on the north shore (and I'm talking about original trail cut) are technically speaking, shit. Thank god for local builders who so lovingly put their time into these trails to maintain them.
An example of this is during the first World Mountain bike conference held on the north shore, professional trail builders from all over the world went for tours on our trails to see why they were so world renowned and to see the quality. What did they see? Quality rock work and bridgework. But they laughed because most of it was unnecessary. If local builders had just originally cut the trail properly then a lot of the work could have been avoided and we could ride on some dirt on certain trails instead of rock highways.
However, build the trail low down on a hill where beginners like to ride or on a shuttle mountain, and you have to armour the crap out of it.
I'm sorry, I will make sure Whistler Blackcomb gets the memo for all of their non-machine made blue trails. Once they understood IMBA guidelines they began cutting a lot higher quality of trails that required less maintenance and less rockwork. (of course their climate was a bit different but I would think sheer numbers make up for that)
Even their machine made trails showed growth in trail design process. I don't know if tom pro still checks out these boards but he will tell you that they learnt a lot when they made A-line, and consequently many things were done differently when they made crank it up.
Ok I got really side tracked there. The greater vancouver area is an incredibly challenging place to build trails because of the steep hills, high rider population, as well as year round riding ability. I know that Mark does have the knowledge to build in these situations, however with him being insanely busy all of the time, occasionally his effectiveness in his work is somewhat compromised. By busy I mean Mark and his wife Lora run IMBA Canada (from mailing you news letters to attempting to prevent trail closures in government arenas) all from their home while raising two young girls and teaching at Capilano University in Sechelt. I think you might not have seen them too much around here in the past few years because the local trail groups have done so well in what would normally be IMBA's fight/ job in other locations.
Give them a chance. Give Mark your feed back on what you thought went well and what you thought didn't. There is no way somebody can fix what you think they are doing wrong if they don't know. email@example.com
oh and Straya. what kind of specific north shore building techniques were you looking for? Check out imba's book Trail Solutions along with the whistler trail building guidelines. Those two pieces are a really good starting point.