“We have a wonderful mix of river valley flats to rolling hills to bush trails to river running to some magnificent hills overlooking pristine valleys and truly a winter wonderland,” said Jerry Bidulock of his home trails around St. Paul, Alberta. “We're not confined by bush and yet we're not in the wide open.”
Bidulock knows a thing or two about good snowmobiling. He started selling for Ski-Doo at age 14 and still does as the owner of Power Merchants Ltd. He’s the founding president of the Iron Horse Trail and a groomer operator with the St. Paul Trailblazers Snowmobile Club. If that weren’t enough, Bidulock has ridden all over Canada and is only about 1,000 kilometres short of having literally snowmobiled from coast to coast.
The Trailblazers maintain over 200 kilometres of trail that connect directly into the Iron Horse Trail, a well-maintained old railbed route that joins many different communities and their clubs. The area south of St. Paul also joins into the trail systems of two other adjoining clubs, opening up endless trail-riding opportunities. In addition to bush trail, hills, lakes and rivers, there is lots of open-land riding on the Trailblazer club network. Sledders must always obey any signage, ride with discretion and respect landowners.
The primary staging area is on the northeast side of St. Paul on the Iron Horse Trail. There are good facilities at the site, and it is adjacent to the services available in town. With caution, riders are able to access the community right from their machines using three different corridors.
Go south, young man
The trail Bidulock recommends for just about any level of rider runs south from St. Paul. It can be easily accessed from the Iron Horse Trail staging area, and the south trail system starts at the small lake on the south side of St. Paul. It is well groomed, marked and maintained and provides a great ride for families. The club’s main warm-up shelter is located on the trail, and there is a smaller facility overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. The route is ideal for more experienced riders as well.
“I think that south trail gives you a complete mix,” said Bidulock. “(There are) rolling meadows if you want to play; significant hills if you want to challenge yourself that way; deep powder, off-trail experiences when the conditions provide for them and a high level of grooming. It's a mix of very easy, friendly on-trail experiences with some light, easier off-trail experience right adjacent to the trail, or you can do quite a lot of boondocking, hillclimbing, river running or flying across frozen lakes, if that's what you choose to do.”
Bidulock particularly enjoys snowmobile touring and long trips. In 2009, a sled journey from St. Paul to the Ski-Doo factory in Quebec allowed him to explore the trails of numerous clubs across the country. From home, his ride of choice is to take the southern trail before linking into some of the other trails.
“I have to say that south trail is one of the nicest overall trails for an adventure,” he said. “We're blessed with machines with amazing fuel range. . . . I mean, 180- to 250-kilometre days are not that unusual anymore, so it's just completely wide open. You could pick any of three other directions once you've gone south to the river crossing and then go south or go east or west. There are a lot of miles to be made out there.”