Hit the trails together in Saskatchewan

Marg Clair of Lakeland Snowmobile Club has long been involved in keeping the trails ready for riders of all levels

by Kristen Mitchell

Riders enjoy riding on a lake in the Lakeland Snowmobile club region.
Riders enjoy riding on a lake in the Lakeland Snowmobile club region. Photo courtesy Marg Clair

Marg Clair started racing snowmobiles in 1968 alongside her husband, who was selling for Ski-Doo at the time. Clair quickly developed a passion for what had started as a promotional activity. Today she’s past president of the Lakeland Snowmobile Club and is still a very active member. The club maintains close to 400 kilometres of trail that stretch from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, up north of Elk Ridge in the Waskesiu region.

The trails in the Lakeland Snowmobile Club network are all regularly groomed to at least 12 feet (3.7 metres) wide, and Clair said they’re rated from easy to medium. She estimates that a third of the trails runs through muskeg or open country, while the remainder travels through trees, much of it mature forest. The only trail that features some challenges goes south from Emma Lake and then west along the bottom of Prince Albert National Park to the Sturgeon River Shelter. This particular route ties into the Canwood Sno-Blazers Club trails, which are to the west.

A family that rides together

Clair’s five children have grown to be snowmobilers themselves, and she now has grandchildren who are third-generation sledders. After several years of participating in the racing circuit, Clair and her husband started a family. It wasn’t the end of snowmobiling for Clair, however.

“My oldest daughter was not a good sleeper and when I needed to have her go for a nap in the afternoon, lots of times she was whining and fussing,” said Clair, “so I'd just pack her up in her snowmobile suit and we'd go for a snowmobile ride. We'd just go for an hour drive and she'd be asleep on my arm by the time the machine was warmed up. I'd just continue driving around until she woke up and then we went home and she'd had her nap and I'd had my ride.”

Where to sled with youngsters

Good destinations for young families on the Lakeland trails are the Tower Shelter and the Trailhead Shelter. The two cabins are located nearby each other and are close to the sled-friendly amenities of Emma Lake and Christopher Lake. The Trailhead Shelter is in a large open area. Visitors can play in the snow, even take a break and build a snowman. The club encourages trail users to have fun and enjoy its region. The area around the Tower Shelter is more enclosed, making it a calmer place to go when the weather is blustery. The two shelters can be visited on a small loop trip, which will take riders over Emma Lake.

“Just playing on the lakes (is also fun for families),” said Clair. “If we are grooming, then the ice is safe to be on. . . . Some people go out the north end of Emma Lake and make the circle around the C Trail and then back in through the A Trail. That would be a good ride for a young teenage driver. They're not going to get in trouble, but it's a nice ride. It's got its challenging spots for a young driver, but that's the way they learn.”

Sledding around Prince Albert

Prince Albert doesn’t have a snowmobile club of its own, and snowmobiles aren’t allowed to drive within city limits. However, just north of the city is easily accessible from Christopher Lake via the 212R Trail, which travels next to Highway 2. The trail isn’t particularly scenic, said Clair, but it’s a quick and convenient way to travel between the two areas. A popular but longer ride travels from Prince Albert to the east on the 205B Trail before turning north to Candle Lake. The full-circle route returns to the Lakeland region by the Chris Can Trail, or point your sled to the south of Candle Lake along the Mosher McGregor Trail. The Chris Can Trail has a warm-up shelter maintained by the Lakeland Snowmobile Club, a great place to stop for coffee and a bag or campfire meal. Those riding this circle route will want to plan to be out for the day.

A personal favourite

After years of dedicated and involved sledding in the area, Clair has a favourite trail. She enjoys the circle route that goes up to Elk Ridge and Timber Cove.

“Lots of people in the area will start out about ten o'clock in the morning and end up at Elk Ridge for lunch and then continue on with the rest of the trail and be back home by 4:30 or 5:00,” she said. “It's a calming trail. It's got lots of twists and turns and bumps, but I love being in the big trees.”

Meet the rider:

Name: Marg Clair
Lives in: Emma Lake
Age: 65
Occupation: Semi-retired farmer
Sledding since: 1968
First sled: A Ski-Doo Olympic 12 HP
Current sled: Ski-Doo GTX.
What did you like about your sled? It's more of a touring sled. It's very comfortable and it's easy to drive. It has reverse and I can pretty well be assured of getting out of any trouble I can get into on my sled.
Who do you usually ride with? I ride with both family and friends. When my family is there I ride with them, but I ride a lot with friends at the lake as well.
What’s your advice for people riding in your area? Just make sure your machine is licensed because part of the fee for licensing their machine in Saskatchewan goes back to all the clubs in the province. That's where our major funding comes from. The only way we can continue to maintain trails is if people buy their licenses.
Where do you want to ride in the future? My son keeps telling me that we need to go ride in Ontario. I'm not sure. It's on my bucket list. It's not one of the top things on my bucket list, but it's there. Hopefully I'll live long enough to do that.
Describe your riding style: Conservative. My son goes out to Revelstoke (B.C.) every once in a while and rides out there. He's got some absolutely crazy pictures, but I actually prefer to have either my track or my skis on the ground. I don't have to have both of them, but I'd sure like one of them.
What is it that keeps you coming back, year after year? That's a really tough question to answer. I really enjoy it. You get out into places that you never see with a car—areas of the country that are not accessible by anything other than snowmobile. You get to see wildlife. I have seen elk and deer and moose and wolves and of course coyotes and foxes. And it's a friendship thing. I would never drive by myself because there are too many things that can go wrong. So it's an activity that I do with friends.

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