Sledding in Swan River and the Swan River Valley is a treat for sledders of all abilities and ages. Every year the area gets heavy snow throughout the entire season.
Derek Sagert is the groomer and operator for the Swan Valley Snowmobile Association. All trails in the valley are groomed weekly and there are many warm-up shacks for sledders who need a break and would like to warm up by a fire and have fun with family and friends.
This year, all trails in Manitoba are switching to a number system instead of names. One of Sagert's favourite rides is the Benito/Pretty Valley riding area, which is now known as Trail No. 2.
The staging area for all trails is the town of Swan River. All trails lead right into town, so snowmobilers can ride from any hotel or motel they are staying at, including Westwood Inn, Super 8 and Timberland Motel.
If you need a map, you can download the map off the Snowmobilers of Manitoba (Snoman) website or you can find a map at any restaurant, snowmobile dealership or hotel or motel in town. There are also plenty of maps at the warm-up shacks along the trails.
To sled in Manitoba, you need to get a SnoPass. You can either purchase an annual pass or buy a seven-day SnoPass. You can purchase these at any Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) agent in the province.
Benito/Pretty Valley (Trail No. 2)
These trails offer amazing rolling hills and lots of chances to see wildlife. It's great for a family outing or just a leisurely two-hour ride. From Swan River you can head out on the No. 2, also called the Pretty Valley Trail.
"You will see our little provincial mountain, which is more like a hill," said Sagert. "Depending on how fast you want to drive, it could take you all day or just a couple hours," he said. "It's a very nice family ride."
You can also get to Benito from a different way. Sledders can leave Swan River to the west and take No. 510. This will take you to a junction, where you can either head straight into Saskatchewan or head south by staying on 510 to get to Benito. On this route, you can stop at the one of the club's nicest warm-up shacks, the Benito Elks Shelter
"There is a great barbecue outside and a stove inside with cooking utensils," said Sagert. "There are also lights if you come at night."
There are lots of other places to stop and eat as well. About half a mile from the warm-up shack is the ski hill, where sledders could take a break from riding and snack on fries and burgers. There is also the Gateway Valley Inn near the town of Benito, which offers great food.
Sagert said if sledders are feeling adventurous, they can continue from Benito into Saskatchewan and go to Madge Lake. To get there from Benito, you take the No. 508, which crosses the border into Saskatchewan. The club grooms right up to the border and then the Saskatchewan club takes over. Sagert said this is a beautiful ride and is about 44 kilometres from Benito.
"The highlight for me is definitely the rolling hills near Benito," said Sagert. "I love going up and down on the beautiful trail. You can also take a break, get off the sled and enjoy all the snow here. It's great."