Some snowmobile clubs in Manitoba had a bit of a rough start this year, with major trail destruction due to storms in fall and early winter and the extreme wind chills that plagued the province in January. But because of the hard work and relentless devotion of many volunteers and clubs, the province is experiencing a turnaround season—there has been amazing snow and riders have been coming out in droves to do what they love the most.
Ken Lucko, executive director of Snowmobilers of Manitoba (Snoman Inc.), said the sledding season in Manitoba has been excellent so far.
"The first clubs started to open their trails as early as November 22 in some areas," said Lucko. "The majority of the province has very good riding right now. The Winnipeg area and the eastern area in general had almost no snow at this time last year, and this year it is knee-deep. Then you have The Pas and Swan River areas, where the snow is three feet high. We're seeing a huge improvement from last year. Everybody's really enjoying the riding and even Snopasses are up, which is great."
Enjoying the fruits of their labours
Manitoba clubs are definitely enjoying the sledding after many dealt with huge setbacks because of thousands of kilometres of trails being destroyed in the fall and early winter. Lucko said a lot of these clubs have most of their trails clear now, but it came at considerable cost. Some clubs spent as much as $50,000 to $60,000 in order to clear them, with most having to rent heavy equipment to do so—not to mention the hundreds and hundreds of man-hours it took.
Sharing information through maps and online
Looking forward, Snoman is focusing on the positives. The organization's new website is exactly one year old and Lucko said it has been very popular.
"There are a huge amount of people going onto the site," said Lucko. "It is a great mix of information and advertising, so it's another source of revenue for us as well. The busiest page is our trail conditions, the next most popular being the home page. We've also added a new kids page because we really wanted to provide more opportunities for them. We are currently sponsoring a colouring contest for the kids. They can either mail or email in a picture we provided and have the chance to win a remote-control snowmobile. The draw will take place on March 1, 2013."
This year, Snoman also changed its maps to better highlight the trails. Lucko compared it to a provincial highways map and the organization printed more than 60,000 of them. The maps have been distributed throughout almost the entire province and are passed out by clubs and businesses. Lucko said the maps are also a great revenue source.
Snoman continued its membership drive this year. If snowmobilers in Manitoba buy a membership in a local club, they also get a membership with Snoman. Lucko said it's usually a very small fee to join a club and the benefits program gives riders far more in discounts than the membership will ever cost. Through this member benefits program, Lucko said, Snoman currently has about 3,000 members.
Snoman in the media
Another big success in early 2013 was the International Safety Week, which took place from January 13 to 19. Lucko said Snoman ended up doing a segment on the CTV Morning Live program in Winnipeg.
"We actually got to teach the CTV reporter, Caroline Barghout, how to ride a snowmobile that morning," said Lucko. "We did a segment from the Winnipeg Sport & Leisure parking lot. They provided us with snowmobiles and provided her with a snowmobile suit. One of our fellows from a local club talked about volunteers and Winnipeg Sport & Leisure did a segment on proper clothing to wear while riding. It worked out very well."
February is environmental month for Snoman; through the month, the organization is doing weekly radio commercials to be aired across the province to promote safety and educate the public on what snowmobilers do to protect and help the environment.
A look at the 2014 sleds
Finally, on April 5 and 6, there will be a sneak peek show at Assiniboia Downs/Red River Exhibition Park to preview the 2014 sleds. Lucko is hoping a lot of people will come out to look at the new sleds. Polaris, Yamaha, Ski-Doo and Arctic Cat will all be there—as will some local dealers in case people want to preorder. Lucko said it should be a great time and there may be a draw as well.
There is lots going on in Manitoba for all snowmobilers. Make sure to check out the Snoman website to keep up with all the latest news.