Contributing to snowmobile safety

Wes Gano shares his passion for the sport by giving back to the snowmobile safety community

by Kirsten Armleder

A man standing on an orange Arctic Cat in the backcountry.
Operational avalanche skills training instructor Wes Gano has been sledding since he was a kid. photo courtesy Wes Gano

A downhill skier and snowmobiler since he was five, Wes Gano fell naturally into the self-proclaimed role of winter sports geek.

Spending most of his childhood at Apex Mountain Resort near Penticton, B.C., Gano grew to love the backcountry and other pursuits, such as climbing and ski mountaineering—sports that took him into the heart of Alaska and other wild places.

Eventually, Gano started a snowmobile guiding outfit at Apex Mountain Resort and called it Apex Alpine Adventures. The venture was successful and Gano met people from around the world, some as far away as China and South Africa. But along came a nice lady from Salmon Arm, B.C., who wanted to try snowmobiling for the first time. She not only fell in love with the sport but with Gano as well, and the two later started a life together in Salmon Arm.

Gano was quick to get involved in the Sicamous sled scene as the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club’s avalanche safety co-ordinator. His first season, he spent 100 days on his sled, signing the club’s trail system. He also joined the local Search and Rescue, got involved with the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) and restarted Apex Alpine Adventures, focusing it more, though, on providing commercial- and recreational-grade avalanche safety training than snowmobile guiding.

“Teaching (safety) courses was where I tended to fit in better than teaching beginners how to ride a sled,” said Gano.

A couple of years later, Gano became the avalanche safety director for the Association of British Columbia Snowmobile Clubs (ABCSnow). He also joined SledCom, the CAC’s snowmobile committee. Now the vice-president of ABCSnow, Gano looks for ways to promote B.C. snowmobile clubs and raise the sledding community’s level of avalanche awareness.

This season, Gano is working with other members of SledCom to facilitate a safety awareness outreach program for high school students. He is also working with Arctic Cat to create a series of free avalanche awareness seminars for next year. And with a steady increase in the number of riders going to Sicamous, Gano and the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club will be busy, ensuring all visitors stay safe while exploring the area’s amazing ride zones.

Sharing his intense passion for the sport is what motivates Gano to give of his free time to the sledding community and do more than just ride.

“It’s sharing the passion I’ve had since I was a little kid,” he said. “I’m getting older and I want to pass it on.

“I’m just a winter sports geek,” he added. “It could snow all year and I’d be happy.” 

Discover Blue Lake

Considered the most beginner-friendly of the four main snowmobiling zones around Sicamous, Blue Lake features wide open alpine and subalpine terrain. The access trail is groomed regularly by the Eagle Valley Grooming Society. Members of the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club also maintain a cabin in the area.

On the weekends, the parking lot for Blue Lake is very busy but don’t be discouraged; according to Gano, it is a large area that usually sees a generous snowfall so there should be plenty of untracked snow to go around.

Gano cautions sledders going into Blue Lake to be wary of the weather. It is lake-affected and storms can blow in very quickly.

“Up there it can change in 10 minutes,” he said. “Make sure there’s a GPS in your crew and you GPS the cabin.” 

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