“Is summer over yet?” That’s not a sentiment many Canadians share, but for Mike Budan from Christopher Lake, Saskatchewan (63 kilometres away from Waskesiu), winter can’t come soon enough. “Summer is such a long season to get through so you can get back to snowmobiling again,” said Budan.
It’s mid-September and Budan is fully ready for the first snowfall. “We’re starting to get a little frost,” he said. “I’m itching for snow already, you know?”
Budan could never be classified as a casual snowmobiler. “It’s in my blood,” he said. “It’s been a family sport for as long as I can remember. My dad and I would always go snowmobiling out to my grandpa and grandma’s or wherever. We’d have wiener roasts and snowmobile as a family. Spending time with the family, that’s very important.”
His desire to ride has never waned as he got older. If anything, it keeps getting stronger. Budan collects 5,000 to 6,000 kilometres on his sled each winter. “One of the longest days I’ve had was going 444 kilometres,” he recalled. “That covered a lot of ground. That would be like riding every trail we have at the lake. You get up in the morning and have a full tank of gas and you hit the trails and go. Bring a Visa card and away you go. Don’t look back.”
Budan practically glowed while discussing the trails that envelop Waskesiu. “When it’s groomed, any trail is quite nice to ride on. It doesn’t really matter which way you go,” he said. “We have a variety of trails to ride: bush trails, big hills, open fields, lots of lakes to ride on, it’s a real mix of terrain. From Christopher Lake we run in four different directions. You can go north up to Elkridge, east toward the Snow Field Road, west toward the Sturgeon River and south to Prince Albert. We’re close to about 400 kilometres in trails.”
Some people enjoy the rush snowmobiling provides but could do without the nippy conditions. Maybe Budan is cold-blooded, because winter’s chill has never slowed him down. “I like the cold,” he said. “Sometimes when we go out it’s 40 below so you dress appropriately. Having the heated seat, it sounds wussy, but it’s pretty good because you’re sitting on this warm pad and it keeps your core warm. If your core’s warm, then your hands and feet and everything stay warm. The temperature doesn’t matter. I’ll ride any weather.” I assured Budan that he’s no wussy for having a heated seat at -40. I’m scared to even look outside when it’s that cold.
I’ve encountered many snowmobile riders who are openly passionate about their love of riding, but Budan takes things to a whole new level. He truly lives for wintertime sledding. “Snowmobiling is my main hobby,” he said. “I don’t golf or anything like that. My passion is snowmobiling. That’s what I wait for every year.”
The kind of enthusiasm and joy that Budan exhibits when talking about the upcoming winter is reminiscent of a child’s wonderment surrounding Santa Claus and Christmas. “Hopefully we get lots of snow this year,” said Budan. “As soon as the days start getting shorter, June 21st or whatever it is, I start getting excited for snowmobiling season. The days are getting shorter, you know what that means!”
I’m no mind-reader but it’s safe to say Budan will be dreaming of a white Christmas in Waskesiu.