The Pembina Drift Busters of Westlock, Alberta, typically see about two feet of snow each winter—that’s plenty of powder for these riders to work with. Most years, their trails are ready to ride by mid-December, and see their first grooming just after Christmas. Their season gives them about three good months of riding the 150 kilometres of trails.
The way that Westlock’s trails are organized allows riders to pick their poison for a day out in the snow: each loop offers something different. Cliff Bromberger, the current president of the Pembina Drift Busters, shared his must-ride recommendations.
"The Main Loop and the West Loop are the ones most used,” he said. The West Loop is about 30 kilometres of easy riding. However, this loop is less scenic than other areas of the snowmobile trail system. “The West Loop goes past a lake, but it’s sort of swampy, so you don’t see that much,” Bromberger said. Instead, Bromberger recommends the Main Loop, or the North Loop if riders are looking for a longer run.
Riding the Main Loop Trail in Westlock
“I like the Main and the North Loops,” said Bromberger. The Main Loop provides a good combination of distance and nature. “You see game on those trails, like deer and moose,” he said. The North Loop is about 80 kilometres—a lot longer haul than the Main Loop, so most riders stick to the Main Loop for a day of playing on the trails.
The Main Loop offers easy riding. “The Main Loop is about 40 kilometres,” said Bromberger. “There’s little hills, but it’s fairly family-oriented.” The trails are wide, and riders don’t have to worry about difficult corners or steep hills along the way. There is a shelter for chilly riders to warm up where the Main Loop and the West Loop intersect on their northern sides.
The views on the Main Loop are more inviting than the West Loop. “Most of it is forest, but we do go through the grazing reserve,” said Bromberger. The trails run through the grazing reserve, which offers a different sort of experience than forested riding. “These are wide open areas. There are some places that are really good for playing,” he said. Westlock riders are even allowed to leave the trails if they’re looking for unlimited play time in the snow. All of the snowmobile trails are on Crown land, so riders can enjoy the trails worry-free.
Getting to Westlock’s snowmobile trails
Westlock has one main staging area. Leave Westlock towards the north on Highway 44. Continue onto Highway 801 at the junction of 44 and 801. Just off of Highway 801, riders will find the staging area. The staging area is located on the south side of the West Loop, so riders will have to travel a few kilometres east to join the Main Loop.
Pembina Drift Busters club events
The Pembina Drift Busters poker rally will be held on Februrary 4, 2017. “We run our Main Loop, or West Loop, and about a quarter of the North Loop,” said Bromberger. “We try to keep it to about 100 kilometres,” because the club wants to ensure that most machines can make the entire distance. “It makes for a pretty good ride.” Checkpoints along the way are stationed so riders can choose portions of the route, rather than completing the whole run if they aren’t feeling up to a 100-kilometre day.
Registration will be help at the Long Island Lake Saddle Club from 9 a.m. to noon the day of the ride, with the expectation that the last poker hands will be in by 4 p.m. Riders are required to have an Alberta Snowmobile Association trail pass. Registration for the poker rally costs $20 for the first hand, and $5 for each hand thereafter. Riders without an ASA trail pass will pay an additional $20 for the day. The licence and insurance of each machine will be checked on the day of the rally.