The Trailblazers crew and their guests gather at the trail head on the outskirts of Whitecourt, Alberta.
WHITECOURT, ALTA. — I was snowmobiling in the Alberta capital for snow machine recreation: Whitecourt. Pushing in the throttle was like pushing a weed whacker against my eardrum. My grip tightened as my front skis lifted off the snow and my machine left the pack behind.
About two hours drive from Edmonton, Whitecourt embodies Alberta winter recreation. Despite the cold, and the shoveling, and short days, Albertans are lucky to have a recreational weather phenomenon as bountiful as snow. Can you go rainmobiling? How about humidity skiing? Albertans use the snow to create playgrounds, and in that regard the residents of Whitecourt are ahead of the pack.
According to the Alberta Snowmobile Association, Alberta has approximately 550 kilometers of groomed and maintained trails. Thanks in large part to the Whitecourt Trailblazers, a local community group of the town’s snowmobiling public, 350 kilometers of trail can be accessed right from the town. That’s over half of the province's total trails in a single location.
Known as the Golden Triangle, the area between Swan Lake, Fox Creek, and Whitecourt is a snowmobiling Mecca. If you were to do the entire outlining trail, you’d be riding for 223 kilometers. Moreover, the Trailblazers have done an excellent job at varying the terrain so that every square kilometer is laden with straight blasts, hilly cut lines, and tight tree-trails.
Thanks to the Trailblazers, a volunteer group from Whitecourt, Alberta, snowmobiling on well-maintained trails is a much more enjoyable experience.
On the day of the annual VIP Media Ride, organized by the Trailblazers, it was made clear the people in Whitecourt grab any excuse to take their machines and friends out on the trails. Moreover, the Trailblazers made sure nobody was without a sled and gear. Roger Humvy, a volunteer with the local fire department, grew up in Whitecourt and can attest that the people there are fantastic. "If you make the effort to be nice to them, you get it back 110% every time,” he said.
Without even making the effort, Humvy was nice enough to lend me some gear and his wife’s sled.
The sled is an older toboggan styled sled; It’s a 670 cc, which translates into about 120 horse power. "More than enough to get you into trouble, hopefully enough to get you out,” said Humvy. He gave a nod and smile then went over some safety.
His machine, by contrast, is 1000 cc and isn’t styled after an actual sled, but is part of the new breed of “high-performance snow machines.” The track is usually longer for hill climbing. The scoops are deeper for serious snow. The nose is snubbed to see the skis better, and the engine is mid-weighted for perfect balance.
If you’re coming out from Edmonton or Calgary and looking for a riding partner, the Trailblazers do a ride every Sunday and would be happy to take you. In fact, they’d rather take you then have to repeat a rescue, like the one earlier this year.
“Bad gear, no buddy, one sled, no supplies, and only half a tank of gas. The only thing that couple did well was bring a cell phone and have the sense to walk until they found a signal, after their gas ran out,” said Randy Mathews of RPM Power Sports.
The good folks of Whitecourt love snowmobiling so much that the Town passed a by-law allowing residents to drive their machines from “their place of storage to the shortest point out of town and onto the trials.” Photo by Will Colford/SnowSeekers
In addition to being a snow machine retailer, and ‘volunteer couples rescue,’ Mathews is also a prominent member of the Trailblazers trail crew. Throughout the summer, this volunteer core is hard at work cleaning and maintaining trails. Then in the winter, they’re still hard at work grooming and maintaining trails, all in order to pursue the winter sport they love.
Whitecourt’s relation to snowmobiling is so strong, the municipality passed a by-law allowing residents to drive their machines from “their place of storage to the shortest point out of town and onto the trials.”
No trailers, no packing up, no unloading, just riding. Now that’s definitely living up to ‘Snowmobile Capital of Alberta.’
For more information on Whitecourt and the Trailblazers, visit Whitecourt.ca
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