From rust-buckets to brand new groomers, snowmobiling in The Pas has seen steady improvements

The Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders has changed equipment over the years, but not personnel

by Kyle Born

A warm-up shelter is pictured with snowmobiles parked in front of it.
Warm-up shelter Mokki Finland is a meeting place between The Pas and Cranberry Portage. Photo courtesy Rob Vipond

The Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders has a lengthy history in The Pas, Manitoba. The club was established in the early ‘70s by the current president, Rob Vipond. Back then the group wasn’t known as the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders; they were a race club. The group used the horse-racing track in town to run a circuit. For a decade, racing events predominated The Pas, and people came from all over to watch and take part.

By the time 1980 rolled around, races were shut down due to cost-prohibitive insurance. “We couldn’t sustain the exposure to liabilities or loss because we had families and businesses,” said Vipond. The club folded for about a year but then opened back up as the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders, focused on trail-building rather than racing.

Then

Manitoba Parks had been making groomed trails up to that point, and locals were enjoying them. But a few years later, due to financial restraints, Manitoba Parks was going to quit grooming trails. So Vipond and the rest of the trail riders realized they’d better pick up this responsibility or they were going to lose their trail system. They came to an agreement with Manitoba Parks to purchase their grooming equipment for a minimal fee and then continued grooming the trails.

The trails were initially groomed with the inherited snow machine and a couple of 16- by four-foot wooden drags. The groomer was functional over straightaways but got stuck on any inclines or hills, resulting in abandonment and replacement.

The Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders moved on to a Bombardier bus equipped with a big steel drag. “It was a powerful old beast,” Vipond said. “It had no hydraulics. If you got into too much snow, you’d spin out. You had to disconnect with big chunks of chain. We’d get together for hours to get out of a bad spot.”

Now

The Pas’ trail system has expanded and evolved since the club’s inception in the early ‘80s. The Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders now maintains 350 kilometres of groomed trails, stretching north to Flin Flon and south to Swan River.

“We have different loops that go to Clearwater Provincial Park,” said Vipond. “You can branch off into unlimited riding at any number of points on Crown land and lakes. People have been coming up here for years to fish and cross-country ride to Snow Lake, Thompson or wherever.”

The trail systems weren’t the only upgrades made in The Pas. The Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders invested in a new PistenBully groomer this year. “We’re just getting it broken in now,” Vipond said. “We should be good for the next eight years or so.”

Upgrades have been made with the seven warm-up shelters along the trails. There are two new shelters located in Clearwater Park, established as a joint effort between Parks Branch and the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders.

Some things haven’t changed over the years though. There’s still a horse track in town and a lot of the people who organized the racing events in the ‘70s are still involved with the club today. Vipond said, “Our members are well into retirement age but they don’t quit.”

 

Club at a glance:

  • Name of club: Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders
  • Club start date: 1970
  • Current president: Rob Vipond
  • No. of kilometres of trails groomed: 350
  • Type of grooming machine: PistenBully
  • The club’s website and Facebook page

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