Tales of a sledding trailblazer

The ASA’s Most Outstanding Ambassador of the Year Melanie Tonsi shares her 25-year journey as a snowmobiler

by Danielle Brost

Melanie Tonsi beside her snowmobile giving a thumbs up
Photo courtesy Melanie Tonsi

In our search for dynamic, passionate Canadian sledders, we caught up with Melanie Tonsi, whose journey in the sport spans over two decades. From her humble beginnings as a newcomer to the thrill of carving through advanced technical terrain, Tonsi shared her insights into what drives her love for snowmobiling (and how she's become an integral part of the local community.)

She has come a long way in 25 years, earning the Alberta Snowmobile Association (ASA) award for Most Outstanding Ambassador of the Year for the 2023-2024 season.

Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram (@mel.tonsi) and keep up with her latest adventures.

- Photo courtesy Melanie Tonsi

What initially attracted you to snowmobiling, and how long have you been into the sport?

During my childhood my grandfather had snowmobiles, however they were used strictly for his trapline. I had only ever known them to be used for work not for play. Fast forward to 1999 when I met my husband Dale, who loves the sport. During the 1999-2000 early season (November) he took me riding for a day on his 1998 Polaris 700 RMK 136”. My husband is 6’3” and I’m 5’3” and we doubled all day. I was so sore from laughing, screaming and riding behind him for six hours or more. He told me, “this will not be permanent, you will have your own sled if you are interested in it.”

I was instantly hooked even though I had a hard time walking for three days. A couple of weeks later, right before Christmas he asked me, “well you have a choice… a ring or a sled for Christmas?”

When a man gives the lady an option of course I’m going to pick the…rrr…. SLED! My very first snowmobile at the young age of 19 was a Red 2000 Polaris 340 Indy Trail. I was sooooo excited! We rode evenings after work and weekends. Pretty much every day that season and we plan to do it again this upcoming season if snow conditions permit. I will be celebrating 25 years in the sport!

What's your favourite thing about snowmobiling?

It’s a split between having the endless ability in learning and developing your style of riding, and finding it therapeutic. I love being able to go out after a rough day to clear my mind and center myself for the next day.

Where is your favourite place to ride?

Alberta – Swan Hills (2x SledTown ShowDown Provincial Champions!)
British Columbia – Silent Pass in Golden

- Photo courtesy Melanie Tonsi

I see that you're an ASA ambassador: How do you get involved in your provincial sledding community?

I get involved by volunteering my time towards work bees, fundraisers and working at the Alberta Snowmobile ATV & Off-Road Show. I participate at club events. I’m an active member and Treasurer for the Swan Hills Snow Goers Club. I’ve been an ASA Ambassador since the 2019-2020 season and what a great ride it has been. Taking the time to go out and ride other Alberta club trails to not only showcase all the hard work put into making beautiful trails across the province but to encourage purchasing an ASA membership to help financially support clubs to continue maintaining their trail systems for generations to come. 

Do you take part in sledding events? (If so, which ones?)

Yes, I participate in many club rallies! My favourite that I always look forward to every year is the Golden Triangle Iron Sledder Challenge.

When you participate in the following three club rallies plus a fourth rally you not only get a medal with bragging rights for completing the challenge, but your name is also entered into a draw for a chance to win $250 at each of the rallies (gas money!)

The three rallies include: The Fox Creek Northland Sno-Goers’ first Saturday of February, the Whitecourt Trailblazers Family Day long weekend, and the Swan Hills Snow Goers’ event held on the Saturday after Family Day weekend. We usually finish off the rally season with the Edson Sno-Seekers first Saturday in March to get the fourth rally. It’s a great way to connect with like-minded people while building old and new relationships. Rallies are the perfect place to introduce someone new into snowmobiling, with well-maintained trails for a safe first-time-out trip.


- Photo courtesy Melanie Tonsi

What kind of machine do you ride?

2019 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat 800 162” (Purple Pony)
2018 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat 800 153” (Sir Mountain Cat)

Can you tell me about your most memorable sledding trip?

I have so many memorable sledding trips, it’s hard to pick one.

My first girls-only trip—April 2015—the Betties Power Sports Network Media Ride in Golden, B.C., with some awesome ladies!

The road trip with my bestie Sara—there is never a dull moment when we get together, it’s always an adventure, especially when she’s driving. Her nickname is “wrong way Sara” and it suits her (sorry Sara, haha!)

Riding Catamount Peak and Silent Pass for three days with seven ladies and of course our camera crew Steve and Kurt. The POW was amazing for three days. Snowed at night and Bluebird during the day. We all had different levels of riding skills—however, after three days of encouragement, tips and pointers, we left with not only sore face and stomach muscles from all the laughing and smiling but with more skills and techniques to take us to the next level.

I miss my Bettie Sistas <3   


- Photo courtesy Melanie Tonsi/Sara Rose Creations

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Since I joined the sport in 1999, I rode mainly with my husband and a core group of guys. They were so great! Teaching me more than your basic skills to get me through a lot of technical terrain. They constantly pushed me outside of my comfort zone, I say push, but they nudged with a lot of encouragement. The decision to do it was always mine to make. They would celebrate with as much excitement as I had because I nailed it! I was lucky to have such a great group of guys that were willing to have me as a tag-a-long.

Once I became confident in my riding abilities, I became even more passionate about the sport, with as much passion as I had I knew it had to put into good use. I wanted to encourage more women to join the sport. I introduced so many over the years who have stuck with it and continued to do the same as I.

In 2013 my husband met an awesome lady at the Arctic Cat dealership in Bonnyville, T&T Powersports. Her name is Trish, and she was one of the founders of the Betties Power Sports Network, an OG Bettie. She gave him information about the club, and he realized that the group was another stepping stone for my mission. Encouraging women into the sport. He signed me up for a membership and I met so many like-minded, courageous women with the same motto as me. Encourage, Empower, Learning and Growth for a sport that is so rewarding. I made friends with so many strong and beautiful women and we all pushed each other to further the growth of our riding abilities.

In 2008 my son Matt came into the world and changed our lives forever. We couldn’t wait to get him on a sled. At 10 months old, I had him in a backpack on my back riding at Lucielle Mtn in McBride. I’ll never forget how so many strong, confident men melted when they seen this little guy in a backpack riding on his mom’s back. After many years of promoting women, I changed direction in my mission to encourage families and youth into the sport. I joined the Alberta Snowmobile Association Ambassador Program which has allowed me to encourage a bigger audience. The ASA has been so happy and appreciative of the shared content. To show their appreciation I received the 2023-2024 Awards of Excellence Most Outstanding Ambassador of the Year. What a great honour to receive such an award! It hardly seems fair when there are so many fellow ambassadors that deserve it as much as me, if not more.

Recently I was asked “What’s next in your book of missions?” Nothing at the moment, I will continue to promote safe riding and to purchase an annual ASA Membership even though it could be a low snow season. Clubs still rely on the funds that they get from those seasonal trail passes. 

See you out there everyone!

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