Volunteering for the love of sledding

Onni Hyytiainen gives his all for the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders snowmobile club.

by Kris Dickeson

Onni Hyytiainen of the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders snowmobile club.
Onni Hyytiainen of the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders snowmobile club. photo courtesy Onni Hyytiainen

With a big smile and a positive attitude, Onni Hyytiainen is a familiar face in the snowmobile community in The Pas, Manitoba. Whether he’s maintaining trails or helping raise money, Hyytiainen gives his all and is viewed as a very valuable member of the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders snowmobile club.

Born and raised in Finland, Hyytiainen came to The Pas in 1971 after answering an ad to work at the paper mill.

“The mill was advertising overseas for people because they couldn’t find any locals to do the job,” he said. “This is a great place. I really love the outdoors and I bought my first snowmobile in 1975 because I wanted to fish at isolated lakes and needed transportation.”

In 2001, Hyytiainen was retired and looking for something to do, so got involved in the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders snowmobile club. He went to a meeting and offered up his time to drive a groomer and has been driving ever since. Hyytiainen is responsible for about three-quarters of the 400 kilometre trail system and usually grooms an average of six hours at a time.

“It’s fun,” he said. “I like doing it alone, being out there watching the nature. It is something that has to be done, but I do enjoy it, so it’s not like I’m doing work.”

Valuable volunteer hours

Hyytiainen also clears and packs the trails at the beginning of the season and helps with the signage. As well, he is very active in the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders fundraising efforts. Hyytiainen grooms the trail for the annual sled dog race at The Pas Trappers’ Festival, and he helps with ice-hole drilling and slushing for the Rotary Club’s annual Bill Bannock Derby. Both events help raise money for the snowmobile club. As well, he sells raffle tickets and “ghost rider hands” for the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders annual poker derby.

Pointing out he is most comfortable helping out behind the scenes, Hyytiainen said he plans to continue putting in as much time as he can to help keep the snowmobile scene in The Pas thriving.

“I will groom as long as I am healthy,” he said. “It can be physical work, with moving trees bent over the trails and things like that. But it’s worth it. When I go out I like good trails, as do other people, and I’m happy to help get that done."

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