Due to volunteer members’ hard work with the various snowmobile clubs throughout the province, they’ve blazed some beautiful trails in the forest for sledding. Of the 13 registered clubs affiliated with ASA, they’ve developed over 6,500 kilometres of trails throughout the province. Each club, such as the Fox Creek Northland Sno-Goers, is operated by volunteers and sells trail passes to riders. The funding from the passes help offset the expenses associated with operating the trails. Another benefit for riders who purchase a pass and become a member of the Alberta Snowmobile Association is the opportunity to ride on many groomed trails that would otherwise be legally off-limits because it's private property. There’s also access to training courses, insurance and discounts to numerous stores, as well as receiving an updated trail map for your area and trail guide for all ASA trails in the province.
Each snowmobile club is responsible for maintaining their area trails and working with government officials to create new trails on crown land. Here in Fox Creek, the Northland Sno-Goers, which falls under ASA’s Northwest Zone, has 12 different trails for riding with a combined total of over 200 kilometres. One of their more popular trails is part of the sledding mecca known as the “Golden Triangle” that connects Fox Creek, Whitecourt, and Swan Hills.
Like all other clubs, the Northland Sno-Goers is strictly volunteer-based who share a passion for sledding. Many long hours and dedication is put into ensuring trails are groomed, staging and warm-up cabins are clean, washrooms usable, and plenty of firewood on hand ready for users. That's over 200 kilometres of trails that need to be checked frequently, which can be time-consuming. Keep in mind; this is in the winter. During the summer, the volunteers put in more work removing fallen trees, cut back overgrowth, repair bridges, and create new trails if permitted, all in preparation for another winter ahead. Keeping the trails fun and safe for all users is only possible due to the club’s funding from selling trail passes each season.
It can be disheartening for the volunteers knowing there are still sledders who would rather not purchase a trail pass to ride on their trails but capitalize on the trail systems anyway. Chris Brookes, Executive Director of the Alberta Snowmobile Association, posted on social media regarding some of the issues ASA faces. As Brookes explains, he had a conversation with a sledder who felt it wasn't necessary to purchase a trail pass. The individual mentioned he didn't need a trail pass as he hops on the groomed trail for a ride then hops off again to go off on fresh powder. The same individual responded with the comment, "Why should I pay for something I'm not interested in or use?". Brookes added in his post, “The self-described free-rider I was speaking with offers nothing back to the snowmobile community or sport. But yet, the ASA advocates on his behalf with the government and offers and promotes safe riding, avalanche safety, and trail volunteer safety programs to ensure all riders do so safely. Without the ASA's efforts and its thousands of volunteers, the free-rider would not have access to ride where he chooses. He would also not have the managed snowmobile trails to hop on and off as he selfishly chooses to do so. It’s okay to be a free-rider. Just don’t be a free-loader”. No matter if it’s the snowmobile club, ATV club or any other volunteer organization, you may be able to access their services for free. Still, it’s always best to support the local organizations that work so tirelessly for you to have fun while keeping you safe.
Vicki Winger, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press