In the shadow of Window Mountain

Andrew Bokkel and members of the Calgary Snowmobile Club experience an unforgettable day of sledding in the Crowsnest Pass

by Maureen McEwan

Justin Williamson heads up the trail to the north shelter. Photo courtesy Andrew Bokkel

Andrew Bokkel is a member of the Calgary Snowmobile Club and has been for about four years. The club rides regularly in the Crowsnest Pass, commonly known as one of the best snowmobiling areas in Alberta. The Pass boasts an impressive 1,200 kilometres of trails, fantastic snow conditions and scenery that is second to none, so it’s not surprising that Bokkel makes the trek south about three weekends a month during the sledding season.

“From my door to the staging area it is about 2 1/4 hours,” said Bokkel, who lives on Calgary’s south side.

He said he leaves early and is ready to hit the trails by 9:30 a.m., which is a typical Saturday for him in the winter.

But there was a day in January that Bokkel remembers as being far from typical. The Calgary club had decided to do a group ride just north of Coleman in the Crowsnest Pass. They met at the Atlas staging area between 9:30 and 10 a.m., then the riders split into two groups, each going a different way. Bokkel's group headed north along the trails towards Window Mountain.

“It wasn’t cold; (there was) just a mixture of sun and cloud—a perfect day for sledding,” said Bokkel.

Groomers had yet to run, and the snow was deep and untouched.

“We were basically breaking trails,” said Bokkel. “There were no tracks in front of us—the snow was epic!”  

At the base of Window Mountain, Bokkel’s group spent time in what he called the play area—a wide open area dotted with trees that offered ideal riding conditions. From there, the sledders headed up to the north shelter, where both groups met for a break and a quick lunch. Then the groups split again, reconvening later in the afternoon. 

It was the ride back that really made the trip memorable, said Bokkel.

“Some of the group decided to head back to the staging area via the road, but a few of us decided to try the pipeline," he said. "That was the best decision we ever made; the snow was waist deep and there wasn’t a track to be had.”

The pipeline was as wide as 150 feet in places. The deep snow made for a challenging but exciting ride.  

“The new snow was easy two feet deep, but it was also the type of snow,” said Bokkel. “When the lead guy dropped back, he couldn’t see the guy in front of him: he was in a huge snow cloud.” 

As it turns out, last year this area received more snow than it had in 40 years, which was just one reason why Bokkel rode there until nearly the end of April.

But that day in particular was one for the record books.

“It was the most snow I’ve ever ridden in or gone through before,” said Bokkel, “but there were just a bunch of good things about that day.”

That’s why it’s been tucked away in his memory bank as one of his best riding days ever.

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