From snow tracker to man tracker

Joe Trotz shares his knowledge of the Crowsnest Pass with a popular television series

by Gail Jansen

Joe Trotz grooming trails in the Crowsnest Pass.
Joe Trotz grooming trails in the Crowsnest Pass. Shane Trotz photo

Joe Trotz’s thorough knowledge of the mountain trails in Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass has made him somewhat of a celebrity as one of Terry Grant’s sidekicks on the popular Outdoor Life Network show Mantracker. The show pits a two-person team of volunteer “prey” against an expert wilderness tracker.

Trotz was born and raised in the Coleman area on a 100-year-old family homestead. Most of his childhood was spent riding and hunting the trails that lay just beyond his back door. 

“I did a lot of horseback riding, four-wheeling and hunting from a very early age,” said Trotz. “Part of our fun on a Sunday was to go out and play on some of the old seismograph trails, logging trails and old mining roads, so I got to know them all pretty well.”

When Trotz’s father bought his first snow machine in 1972, an old Skidoo 399 Olympic from the Rancher Supply store in nearby Pincher Creek, Trotz was able to start exploring the trails throughout the winter as well.

Trotz took a break from snowmobiling due to work and family commitments, but eventually returned to it in the late 1980s and early 1990s and later joined the local Crowsnow Riders snowmobiling club.

“I got involved with the Crowsnow Riders through Trevor Hay, a dentist here that was very involved at that time,” said Trotz. “I ended up going out a lot with him and got involved with doing some of their promotional and safety videos, getting more and more involved with the club as the years went on.”

Today, Trotz is responsible for grooming the more than 1200 kilometres of marked trails in the Crowsnest Pass, a task which has helped him to learn even more about the area.

“Most of the areas are pretty defined where we can go with the groomer,” said Trotz.  “We’re limited in the mountains here, but sometimes I’ve tried to venture here or there and sometimes I’ve ended up pretty stuck. So I’ve learned my lesson and pretty much just stick to the set trails.”

Trotz’s wealth of knowledge and passion for the land was recognized by Sacha Anderson, marketing coordinator at Community Futures Crowsnest Pass, as an asset that would help draw the television show Mantracker to the community.

“Sacha was watching a Mantracker episode a couple of years ago and thought that they should do a show in our area,” said Trotz. “So she emailed Bonterra Productions who make the show, and they were very interested. Then she called me up to see if I would be interested in working with them.”

After sending a picture of himself and undergoing a brief interview with producers, Trotz was offered not only the job of outfitting the show with the horses and supplies they would need to film the episode, but also the coveted job of being one of the Mantracker’s sidekicks.

“I provided pretty much everything for them and I arranged some guides for them as well,” said Trotz.  “So it  worked out well for them and made their life a little easier, and it worked out pretty good for me because we filmed the episode in a lot of the areas that I groom and snowmobile in. Having that knowledge definitely helped us in our tracking, because if you didn’t know where a trail was or where it ended up, it would have been pretty hard to get the jump on anybody.”

For the first episode Trotz and the Mantracker Terry Grant tracked down two sisters from Saskatchewan. Even though the women were in “phenomenal physical shape” and put up a “really good chase,” in the end they fell prey to the Mantracker, thanks to his trusty sidekick's detailed knowledge of the area.

Trotz is now passing that knowledge on to his son Shane, who often will now join him as he grooms the winter trails. For as Trotz himself knows firsthand, you can never tell when that sort of knowledge will come in handy.

With two new Mantracker episodes filmed this past summer still waiting to be aired, Trotz says he’s pretty sure he’s in for some more ribbing for his newfound celebrity.

“It’s a small town,” laughed Trotz. “And everyone knows me because I’m involved here and there, so they all kind of gave me a bad time.” But in the end, acknowledges Trotz, “it’s all part of the fun.”

See Joe Trotz’s bio on the Mantracker website at

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