Lac du Bonnet: The ultimate sledding experience

snowmobilers cmyk

Lac du Bonnet is home to some of the finest snowmobiling in the province, and it’s all thanks to a slew of volunteers who groom our trails and ensure snowmobilers have an optimal sledding experience.

“We have such a beautiful area to snowmobile in. We’re really lucky,” says Wendy Dietz, president of the Nopiming Snomads, who maintain and groom approximately 180 kilometres of trails that wind through forests, rock ridges, bogs, swamps and rivers in Nopiming Provincial Park northeast of Lac du Bonnet. “A lot of people compliment us on our trails, how nice they are. They’re very well-maintained.”

The Snomads provide safe, quality trails for both club members and visitors to the region. The majority of the club’s members are cottage owners in the South Nopiming Lake area including Bird, Booster, Flanders and Davidson lakes. Within the membership, a dedicated group of volunteers provide leadership and support to maintain the club’s exceptional trail system.

Maintaining hundreds of kilometres of snow-covered trails in all kinds of weather keeps volunteers of the region’s four snowmobile clubs hopping. Gus Wruck, president of the Eastman SnoPals, knows that first-hand. The Snopals have 16 volunteer members who work hard to ensure a great riding experience through the Great Falls area in the north, Elma to the south, Seddon’s Corner to the west and Pinawa in the east.

“A few years ago we clocked the number of sleds going by one point [on our trail system], and we came up with about 900 snowmobiles on a single weekend,” Wruck says.

That’s a huge amount of traffic, and illustrates what a valuable group snowmobilers are for Lac du Bonnet in the winter months. “A lot of our businesses depend on snowmobilers in the winter — gas stations, restaurants, hotels,” Wruck adds. “The snowmobile community is an important one for us.”

Frank Loreth knows that first-hand. He operates Drifter’s Inn, a gas bar, restaurant, cocktail lounge and motel at the intersection of Highway 11 and Highway 313. “Snowmobiling is a huge part of our business at this time of year,” Loreth told Discover Lac du Bonnet in January. “When the conditions are good we have some of the best trail riding anywhere, with warmup shacks and services easily accessible and well-stocked. I would say that at my place [of business], snowmobiling creates about two jobs alone for about three months a year.”

In a small community like Lac du Bonnet, that’s a big deal, he adds. “Without [snowmobilers], I’m not sure how we would survive the winters.”

Surviving the winter is something the volunteer clubs know exactly how to do. Warmup shacks are peppered throughout the region’s trails, so snowmobilers can stop and defrost themselves. They need not bring their own firewood. “We work hard keeping the warmup huts equipped with firewood,” says Barry Richardson, vice-president of the Lee River Snow Riders, who groom 200 kilometres of trails.

“We’ve equipped two of our cabins with solar lighting and we’re equipping the rest with it in 2014. When you go there at night you can flip a switch and there’s light inside. It’s also a safety thing — a lot of people use candles, and these cabins are wooden structures and if the candles aren’t put out, that can obviously cause problems.”

Safety is a prime concern for all the region’s clubs. “Every year we do a map of our trails, and there are GPS points of all our huts — once you’re into our trail system it’s pretty difficult to get lost,” Richardson says. The club made headlines in late 2013 when members saved the lives of two snowmobilers who got lost on the trails in dangerously cold temperatures. They had embarked on a ride before the trails had been opened.

Club members also went back to recover the two ice-bound snowmobiles. Hours of hard work and planning went into this recovery, according to club president Brad Wall.

“Our volunteers were asked if they could recover these sleds,” he said in a press release. “The members, on their own volition, decided to try and recover the sleds. It was dangerous, complicated and extremely difficult.”

That volunteer dedication is the reason for our area’s gorgeous snowmobile trails. The Mooswa Lake Snow Riders, who groom 140 kilometres in the Milner Ridge, Pine Falls and Lac du Bonnet areas, know the value of volunteer help. The club has dedicated volunteer members who work hard to ensure a great riding experience for sledding enthusiasts.

“Any help would be gladly welcome,” says club president Patrick Lachance.

For more info on our region’s clubs, and to find out how you can help them out in their efforts, visit:

• www.eastmansnopals.ca
www.mooswalakesnowriders.ca
www.lrsr.ca
sites.google.com/site/nopimingsnomads

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