Jeremy Stowards, known to many locals as Jer Can, is not from Williams Lake, but in the back of his mind, he said he always knew he would end up here.
He grew up in Mission, B.C. but his family would vacation in the Cariboo.
“I always enjoyed it here as a child,” recalled 30-year-old Stowards, explaining his initial childhood connection with the lakecity came from visiting with family.
Stowards is cousins with Mark Savard, the mastermind behind Red Shreds Bike & Board Shed, and coming up to spend time with Savard’s family on Chimney Lake and riding the area’s mountain bike trails was something Stowards loved.
But while in Williams Lake Stowards is a well-known mountain biker, when he was younger he started out with a passion for a different sport entirely.
“I was really into skateboarding as a child, I thought that was the coolest sport ever,” explained Stowards. But he looked up to his older sister and her boyfriend, who were both into mountain biking.
So his sister and her boyfriend took him out and the two-wheeled sport of downhill mountain biking became a new passion.
He described sneaking in to borrow her bike when she was out and putting it back before she got home.
Stowards definitely took to the sport and he started to attend B.C. Cup races across the province, a habit he helped support by working in bike shops through his high school years.
Then when Mark Savard invited Stowards to come up in 2011 and work in Red Shreds Bike & Board Shed as a bicycle mechanic, he said he jumped at the chance.
“I haven’t looked back since,” Stowards said with a smile. Sponsorships with a variety of mountain bike-related companies even gave Stowards the chance to travel to various locations around the world with the sport to shoot videos and advertising photos, including the south of France.
Trail building was another aspect of his passion for the sport which started at a young age, and then he got his first job building trails professionally with Thomas Schoen of First Journey Trails in 2014.
Stowards said he learned as he went over the years, working alongside long-time trail builders, gaining as much knowledge as he could from them along the way.
Stowards eventually also did a hand falling course and started his own sole proprietorship in 2018, when he left working at the bike shop.
Since then, he has been doing a mixture of hand falling and trail building and just last year incorporated his business as New Path Forestry Ltd.
Currently, New Path Forestry is primarily a recreational trail development company which specializes in mountain bike trails but also does low mobility trails and other projects. Stowards is now putting the finishing touches on a new machine-built mountain bike trail To the Ride, which will be a major addition to the Fox Mountain Trail Network as the first machine-built downhill jump line section on the network. The new trail is slated for a grand opening event on June 11, 2022.
Stowards and his partner Alexis Myhre also now own a house in Williams Lake.
“I see myself staying in the Cariboo for sure,” asserted Stowards. “I feel like it’s a place where you can kind of spread your wings a little bit and stay out of the rat race.”
“I think the people are pretty special here.”