Outside and involved in St. Paul

For Danny Smyl of St. Paul, Alberta, giving back is an important piece of participating in the sport he loves

by Kristen Mitchell

A yellow groomer comes down a trail with trees on both sides. Danny Smyl is driving.
Danny Smyl spends countless hours in the groomer each season. Photo courtesy Danny Smyl

There are plenty of reasons that we love to get out and ride. It might be those deep-pow bluebird days or unwinding on the trail with some favourite people on the weekend. Whatever the reasons, the sledding community also needs people who are inspired to give back to the sport.

Danny Smyl is the president of both the St. Paul Trailblazers snowmobile club and the Iron Horse Trail Grooming Foundation. Either of these volunteer positions alone takes dedication and a passion for sledding. Smyl stays involved for a number of reasons, not the least of which is passing the sport on to the next generations.

“(I’m inspired by) my kids and my grandchildren, who are just up and coming now,” he said. “They just love being outside. (The grandkids) are only four years old right now, but in due time they’re going to be on sleds and they’ll want to do what we did. I think that’s the major reason why I do this.”

As president of the Iron Horse Trail Grooming Foundation, Smyl is the trail steward for 330 kilometres of multi-use trail. Five clubs are involved in the maintenance of this segment of the Trans Canada Trail. He’s also been with the St. Paul Trailblazers since rejuvenating the club about a decade ago. Now the club maintains a membership of about 80 snowmobilers. It hosts rallies and races as well as building cabins and raising money for local charitable events.

Despite having a solid club behind him, Smyl listed finding volunteers as the number 1 challenge. St. Paul is not alone—snowmobile communities everywhere fight to get enough people involved. Another problem, said Smyl, is the small handful of individuals who ruin the hard work that everyone else puts in. St. Paul has had a cabin burnt down and the Iron Horse Trail is currently trying to raise funds to rebuild the Beaver River Trestle Bridge, another project that’s come about thanks to a few bad apples.

Despite the challenges there are still lots of reasons to be involved.

“We have such a big group here in Northern (Alberta),” said Smyl. “What’s happening is we’re losing a lot of land base for recreational use so we’ve got to get back in control—manage use and land bases . . . We’re up in this northern community and (the sport) is getting bigger and bigger—people are looking for recreational—so we need to get them outside and involved.”

Must-do ride

Visitors to the Lakeland region of Alberta will definitely find themselves spending some time on the Iron Horse Trail. Danny Smyl said that his favourite segment of the trail to ride is from St. Paul down to Heinsburg. View a map of the trail online. The trail is mostly flat but the majority of it is in the trees and is well-protected.

When Smyl does trade the groomer for his sled he also enjoys riding south of St. Paul. This area offers hills and twists. Thanks to the St. Paul Trailblazers, good relationships with private landowners means that open quarters of farmland are available for sledders who want to play.

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