A playground for everyone

Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, is the gateway to a vast area of diverse terrain for the snowmobile enthusiast

by Marie Milner

Three snowmobilers in a dramatic mountain landscape
The mountains of the Continental Divide make a dramatic backdrop for these snowmobilers near Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. Photo courtesy Travel Alberta

When Darcy Friesen talks about snowmobiling in the Crowsnest Pass area of southwestern Alberta, he’s describing an activity that he loves and an area that he’s passionate about promoting and protecting.

Friesen doesn’t have a favourite area or trail—he loves it all. The Crow Snow Riders snowmobile club maintains 1,200 kilometres of trails, most of which are groomed, and that means sledders can tailor their ride to the snow conditions and their skill level or preference.

Family friendly

“For a family ride with kids, we could go up into the Atlas area north of town,” Friesen said. “From there, we can ride to a really nice safety shelter with a woodstove and solar panel lighting. We may go all the way to the shelter to have our lunch, or we may have it along the trail—there are lots of pretty spots to choose from if we want to take a break.”

Friesen said that on occasion he’s gone out with as many as 30 people in one group. With a big group, it’s usually a destination run, and they all take food to share at one of the cabins. The group has a rule where each rider is responsible for the person behind them, to make sure everybody stays safe.

“My two daughters are 19 and 22,” Friesen said, “and they have been riding sleds since they were old enough to ride. We’ve had great family times together on the trails—enjoying the beauty of the outdoors, having a good laugh and getting great exercise. Sledding can be a highly challenging sport, but it’s also very family oriented. Every time we go out together, we make a new memory.”

Plan to stay safe

Being well prepared for your ride is key to having a good experience, Friesen said. Checking the snow conditions for avalanche risk will help you decide where you’ll be riding.

“Make a plan and let people know where you will be going and when you’ll be back,” Friesen said. “Make sure your clothing and equipment are adequate and reliable. Pick up a trail map and pick a route that’s appropriate for your skill level.”

Support your sport

Friesen encourages trail users to buy a trail pass because the money helps support the local club to maintain the trails, and supports the Alberta Snowmobile Association.

“And there’s another advantage,” he said. “If you’re paying into something, it gives you a voice into what’s going on. If you don’t support it financially, you’re kind of waiving that right.”

Snowmobilers in Crowsnest Pass are hoping for reinstatement of a bylaw that would allow them to ride their sleds on assigned routes within the town and minimize the need to trailer their machines to a staging area. Friesen believes that both local and visiting sledders would applaud the move.

“Snowmobiling has meant great memories and closeness for us as a family,” Friesen said. “We have a great club and a great area. Come out and enjoy it.”

Name: Darcy Friesen
Proprietor: FCC Auto Body, Blairmore, Alberta
Sledding since: I was young, probably seven years old
First sled: A 1974 Ski-Doo Elan
Current sled: 2014 Ski-Doo 800 Summit X
Favourite riding style: Playing in the deep powder—boondocking and that kind of thing.
What makes it so much fun for you? It’s the whole thing—the feeling of going through the powder, getting some good exercise and fresh air and being in the beautiful scenery with good buddies or my family.

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