Despite having over 11,000 km of snow-covered trails maintained and groomed by snowmobile club volunteers across Saskatchewan, snowmobile riders in the West Central part of the province don't have a local club to call home.
Avid sled-heads from the area won't think twice about going to the mountains for the some winter fun in the snow, and the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association (SSA) wants those same people to know that a different experience trail riding could be a fun time right here in our home province.
We chatted with the group's Executive Director Leah Switzer in observance of Provincial Snowmobile Safety Week in Saskatchewan, and at the same time, asked just why West Central doesn't have any established trails.
"That area has traditionally been one that can be really hit and miss on what your snow conditions are like for consecutive years. A lot of clubs that are interested in those areas just can't make it go year to year depending on what their snow is like."
They do their best to weave the trails into a province wide system so that people can go for as long as they want, and it can't be stressed enough how important volunteers are to the group's success. With the ability to ride nearly all the way across the province, the SSA is encouraging people from West Central to make a trek to one of the groups many starting points just a decent drive away.
"Once you connect into the system, like if you were from Kindersley and you went up to the North Battleford or Saskatoon area, you could definitely connect in and ride clear across the rest of the province if you wanted to; It just may take a little longer, right?!" explained Switzer.
Many open areas around West Central have received enough snow for the average rider to give it a go, but snow conditions all around the province have made the club's trails in particular a great attraction for those looking for a winter rip in the great outdoors.
"This year has been great so far. We are seeing all of our clubs opening up trails which is wonderful," said Switzer.
Should you decide to head north, that snow is just as good, as Switzer shared that "the north keeps getting more snow, and they are traditionally our hotspot for snowmobiling, and everyone seems to be happy with what is out there on the trail."
Back to the original nature of the interview, Switzer shared these snowmobiling safety tips with Provincial Snowmobile Safety Week in Saskatchewan active until January 21st:
"In Saskatchewan, we promote safe snowmobiling no matter where you are."
- Register your sled
"If you don't happen to have trails in your area, and you head out snowmobiling, just remember that you do still need to register your snowmobile to ride on public lands. You can register with SGI at any of the 350 issuers across the province, and with the $110 registration fee you will receive $200,000 in third party liability, which means you have protection in case you cause property damages or injuries to anyone else."
- Sign up for courses
"We recommend everyone take the snowmobile safety course, but it is required for anyone born after January 1st, 1989 to have their certificate even if they have a valid drivers license. The SSA offers both an online and a classroom course for $50 a student. Throughout January we have five classroom courses scheduled across the province, so you can visit our website to see the full listing and register, or to take the online course."
- Don't ride impaired
"If you are heading out snowmobiling, there are some key things we always want you to remember. Operating a snowmobile is like operating a vehicle, so it comes with the same repercussions of needing a license, needing to be registered, and also not driving impaired."
- Use the buddy system
"Never ride alone. We always recommend that you go out with a buddy. If you are headed out, let somebody know where you plan to go and when you plan to return just so if something happens, people know where to look for you."
- Use the right equipment
"Wear the proper gear. Have a proper fitting helmet. Good warm snowmobile gear. Make sure your machine is in good operating order. Take some tools with you as well as some emergency supplies. Also, check the weather before you head out so you know where you are going."