The strongest bond between father and son rests on a cold lake

Best day ever: Reminiscing powdered memories in Cold Lake, Alberta

by Kyle Born

Chris Rourke poses on his snowmobile in front of a warm-up shelter
Chris Rourke took his dad sledding for the first time in eight years and experienced his best day ever in the process. Photo courtesy Chris Rourke

Few things can strengthen a bond between father and son better than a fun excursion. For Chris Rourke of Cold Lake, Alberta, that meant reacquainting his dad with the sport that brought them so much joy during his younger years.

“I got my father out for the first time in about eight years,” said Rourke. “He introduced me to riding and I grew up riding with him. He sold his sled after he had an accident. He hadn't gone back into the sport. It was good to get out again, turn the tables a bit and take him out.”

Even though this best day ever took nearly a decade to come to fruition, it was an impromptu adventure that sprang up out of the blue due to nice weather and an extra snowmobile.

“My brother-in-law offered his sled,” Rourke said. “The nice, warm day made it a little more inviting . . . just under zero degrees with a blue sky and bright sun.”

A large bridge fills a great gap in a trail
The Beaver River Trestle on the Iron Horse Trail offers convenient transit for snowmobilers. Photo courtesy Chris Rourke

Riding conditions were ideal for the father-son ride.

“It was a midweek ride and it snowed the previous weekend,” Rourke said. “We only came across fresh tracks once. It was just the two of us.”


Once the pair was out riding together, Rourke’s father picked up the sport as quickly as remembering how to ride a bike. It didn’t take long for the two men to contend for Rourke’s 2014 Ski-Doo Freeride.

“It has more horsepower than my brother-in-law’s,” Rourke said. “I was trying to get my sled back from my dad once he got on it.”

Absorbing the senses

Rourke and his father traversed through the Cold Lake Snowmobile Club trail network, starting at the marina on the shores of Cold Lake. The landscape around the area varies from pine and boreal forests to muskeg, frozen open lakes and river valleys.

“The trail network goes northeast out of the town area and into the wilderness,” said Rourke. “We followed a road to one of the club's cabins and continued on north. It's fairly flat up here. It's gorgeous when you're in it.

“It was an active spring day for birds and a few moose. In the springtime you can tell when the winter's turning and it's getting brighter. Everything seems a little more lively. The moose were across the trail in front of us, within a couple hundred feet. It's good to see wildlife. You usually come across something while you're out here.”

The sunshine casts light on a lake with a bridge in the distance
Cold Lake showcases some of Alberta’s serene beauty. Photo courtesy Chris Rourke

Along with the stellar sights were the soothing smells of nature and snowmobiles.

“Warm spring air and a little bit of two-stroke smoke,” Rourke said with a satisfied breath. “We got a lot of Jack pines around the cabin too.”

Two provinces equals twice the fun

Cold Lake’s trail system is extensive and includes cross-border riding to open up even more options.

“You can take the lake to any direction to get wherever you want to go,” said Rourke. “Our trail network ties into the lake itself. We're part of the Iron Horse Trail Society, which is right in Cold Lake south and is part of the Trans Canada Trail. We co-operate with the Meadow Lake Snowmobile Club on the Saskatchewan side of the border. Cold Lake is situated on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan, so you can ride directly to Meadow Lake's trail network on the Saskatchewan side of the lake and get into Saskatchewan from there.”

As is the case with most who reacquaint themselves with snowmobiling, the allure of the sport beckons them to return for good.

“That trip was a one-off but we've got him out since for club family rides,” Rourke said.

Nothing brings family together like snow, sleds and the smell of the two-stroke. 


Trail name: Cold Lake Snowmobile Club trail network
Difficulty level: “Fairly easy to moderate from a flatland point of view.”
Staging area: At the end of the Iron Horse Trail
Memorable quote: “The trail network goes northeast out of the town area and into the wilderness. It's fairly flat up here. It's gorgeous when you're in it.”

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