Fernie Snowmobile Association at a crossroads

For 27 years, the self-reliant, volunteer members of the Fernie Snowmobile Association have quietly dedicated forces to secure vibrant recreation and diverse economic opportunities in the Elk Valley. photo courtesy Nicole Matei

Backcountry winter access in the snow-capped Southeastern Rockies of B.C. has been part of the culture in the Elk Valley for almost as long as coal mining. Over the decades, various user groups have evolved and expanded. By itself, snowmobiling now brings in an estimated $1 million worth of revenue into the local economy. But this apparent success has created a new challenge for the local Fernie Snowmobile Association (FSA).

The FSA is looking to expand its service to keep up with the increased backcountry traffic. This will ensure that residents and visitors continue to have recreational opportunities, while maintaining the economic diversity for the community.

“This is an evolution,” said FSA president Dave Hozjan, “to replace our aging equipment to better serve and manage an increasing number of trail users and comply with new legislative requirements.”

The FSA’s plan is to purchase a snowcat groomer with help from donors in the community. Major donors will purchase space for their corporate logo on the snowcat’s new wrap for the life of the snowcat.

“Supporting this FSA project supports the community by ensuring those tourism dollars stay here,” added Hozjan, “and we’ve already had some big organizations in the Valley step up with more than $8,000 in donations. Our goal is to raise at least $50,000 to ensure success.”

The FSA currently provides over 116 kilometres of groomed trails to almost 300 annual members and well over 7,000 day users cultivated from across Western Canada. This translates into $750,000 in annual hotel revenue generated by snowmobiler visits to the Elk Valley.

Grooming operations are essential for providing valuable recreational opportunities and access to backcountry safety resources—including three warming cabins, emergency radios and trail signage for residents of the Elk Valley, inclusive of snowmobilers, dog walkers, fat-bikers, Nordic skiers and ski-tourers.

Email the FSA for more information about how you can support its snowcat fundraising initiative.

See the Fernie section on SnoRiders to read more about the FSA and this amazing sledding destination. 

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