High Level is loopy

Roller-coasters aren’t the only things that go loop-de-loop

by Kyle Born

Snowmobiling in High Level Alberta
High Level’s Main Loop has places to stop along the journey. This cabin is west of Hutch Lake. Photo courtesy Brenda Duval

If you’re riding in High Level, get ready to be taken for a loop—the Main Loop, that is. The Main Loop is High Level’s most used, groomed and popular trail. It’s 134 kilometres long, utilized for poker rallies (check out the sidebar below) and is easy to access from town (more on that in a minute).

What’s there to see?
The Main Loop has everything: varied terrain appropriate for any ability, access to other trails from many points around the trail (highways and oilfield/forestry access), open areas to frolic and play in the snow, rest areas (rib pits) to gather with friends or other riders for picnics, potty breaks and a warm fire, and two emergency warm-up shelters. Is that enough to keep you occupied? Maybe you ride for the sights. The Main Loop has you covered there too. The trail is deep in High Level’s northern woods where the wildlife ranges from spruce grouse and snowy owls to moose, deer, coyotes and lynx. The forest is comprised of Boreal Forest tree species, which canopy much of the trail system to give the rider a cozy weather breaker from those cold winter winds.

“Driving at night between the two bridges with the frost on the trees is probably the most beautiful scenery you could imagine,” said Brenda Duval, Watt Mountain Wanderers snowmobile club event co-ordinator. “The northern lights—words cannot describe the awe of it.   An evening ride to meet riders at the rib pit is always fun. We have loads of laughs and camaraderie with anyone who is out on the trail. There is no tension, no phones bothering us and no stress, just friendly conversation and warmth by the fire.” 

How to access it
There are many accesses into the Main Loop. The easiest access is located 1.5 kilometres west of town. The access begins from Highway 58, then the trail winds around and up Watt Mountain and back towards town. There are other accesses off this trail to go towards Hutch Lake and Footner Lake, which are located north of High Level.

The main event: Poker Rally

Date: February 25, 2017, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Location: Event registration and start point is located at the High Level U Wash, then follows the access out of town to the Main Loop.

The High Level Poker Rally has been going since 1997, when the Watt Mountain Wanderers became an official snowmobile club. To get in the game, riders register at the High Level U Wash and purchase their poker hands at $10 per hand. Next, they pick their first poker chip and the number is written down on the rider’s card. The rider rides the trail to checkstops for more cards to make a hand. Food is provided in the form of hot dogs, hot chocolate and coffee along the checkpoints and when the awards are given. At the end of the day, the cards are collected and sorted according to the total amount of the cards. The president pulls five chips and tallies the number to the winning poker hand. The winner is determined by the closest number without going over to win the prize. This year’s grand prize is well worth winning—a 2015 Viper!

The Poker Rally is the main fundraiser for the Watt Mountain Wanderers snowmobile club to assist with costs incurred putting on events, repairs to equipment, maintaining the trail system, and licensing/insurance fees.

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