From your friendly neighbourhood groomer

Elmer Niezen, BCSF’s Groomer of the Year, volunteers his time each year to keep Chilliwack’s trails ready to ride

by Kristen Mitchell

A sledder is silhouetted against the setting sun looking over an amazing panorama of the town below.
One reason Elmer Niezen rides is to enjoy the beautiful area he calls home. Photo courtesy Elmer Niezen

How often do you pause to thank the groomers that keep our trails ready for riding all winter? Elmer Niezen from Chilliwack, B.C., is the winner of the British Columbia Snowmobile Federation (BCSF)’s Groomer of the Year Award, and he is one example of someone who loves riding enough to dedicate his time and efforts so others can enjoy it as well.

“We’re trying to get more people involved, but it’s just the challenge of the time, and obviously it costs money,” Niezen said. “We’ve had a few guys in the club step up and donate fuel and help with the cost. As we’re getting more members, it’s getting easier—and as we’re getting more area open for riding, we’re getting more people coming out. (We're getting) families too, because we keep the trails groomed and they can ride with their kids.”

There's more to the job than meets the eye

Niezen is the secretary of the Chilliwack Snowmobile Club. He originally got involved as a groomer because, as the owner of a large machinery shop in Chilliwack, he was already doing maintenance on the grooming machines. His job allows him to dedicate several hours every week to making sure trails around the area are ready for riders.

Why get involved?

The Chilliwack Snowmobile Club only started up a few years ago, bringing more of a local focus to riding. With Mount Cheam in its backyard, Chilliwack is becoming an increasingly popular sledding area. There is plenty of extra work, however, with more riders heading out. Niezen helped build a portable cabin from a shipping container, and this is towed up to the riding area annually. The mountain is multi use throughout the summer and the club attends monthly meetings with forestry and a number of user groups. Additionally, there has been work on brushing more trails, with plans to grow the network farther. It all ties in to Niezen’s favourite part about volunteering for the activity in his hometown—introducing new riders to the pastime and the area.

It’s all worth it for Niezen, simply because of his love of the sport and the outdoors. Still, he’s excited to see club numbers growing and more visitors respectfully enjoying the riding area he’s worked to establish. Chilliwack is lucky to have a dedicated groomer who goes above and beyond expectations. It’s a good reminder to appreciate the people who advocate for sledding in communities across North America.

“I really just enjoy snowmobiling and our view from (Mount Cheam) is amazing,” said Niezen. “We look over where we live—right over the valley into Abbotsford and farther. It’s amazing, just because it’s home.”

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