Start your season in Yorkton, Saskatchewan

Fresh powder and warm fires in friendly Yorkton means the best of both worlds

by Karissa Gall

A photo of 3 tractor groomers used by the Yorkton SnoRiders.
Photo by Rick Bilous. With a total of three groomers, the Yorkton Sno Riders are able to offer some of the earliest groomed trail riding in the province.

What’s better than a warm fire on a cold winter day? If you ask Yorkton Sno-Riders vice president Rick Bilous, a warm fire after a long day of riding, even at minus 40 degrees.

“Probably the most memorable days aren’t the ones we should talk about,” said Bilous with a laugh. “One day we went out and I think it was minus 40 with the wind-chill, and we took a group of customers out and if you weren’t dressed for the ride you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as you could have. But we had a great time and there sure wasn’t much traffic on the trails that day.

“We sit by a fire after the day is over, but for part of the day we will definitely go riding,” he said.  “We look forward to winter here.”

Cold days offer the best riding conditions

Despite the cold, Bilous said that low-temperature days offer some of the best conditions for riding. “On a cold day it’s usually sunny and it’s usually probably just snowed, so those are some of the nicest conditions to go out on,” he said. “Weather is not a hindrance… If it happens to be cold we go riding anyways.”

One such day came last season, when the area got a three-foot dump of fresh powder.

“Last winter we had a terrific amount of snow here and fresh powder and just beautiful riding through the area,” he said. “We probably had as much as three feet of snow on level everywhere. Usually our snowfall is about a foot and a half to two feet, but we had extra this past year, which was very nice.”

On a day like that Bilous said he will be heading out on his 800 Polaris Switchback with his friends and his wife to Good Spirit Lake, from which “you can access a tremendous amount of trails.
“A lot of it is wilderness riding,” he said. “Very backcountry and just beautiful, pristine conditions.”

The backcountry is what it is all about for Bilous, “having the option of going into areas that you’ve never had a chance to go into before and enjoying (the) countryside.

Earliest trails ready in the province

“We usually have snow here for many months of the year,” he said, adding that Yorkton gets some of the earliest snow in the province. “It’s a perfect way to enjoy winter; snowmobiling is an excellent way to pass the winter because they can get pretty long in this part of the world.”

Having some of the earliest snow in the province means having some of the earliest trails in the province, he said. “Our trail system goes into an area that doesn’t have many rocks, so we can actually start our trail systems before anybody else can. So it’s a very lovely place to come early in the season,” he said.  “We have hills, flatland, bush trails—we have all types of terrain, so it’s very good for all types of driving, and in that, because we travel through a lot of wilderness area, we have a lot of wildlife that can be seen on our trails.”

And with three groomers, Bilous said the club keeps some of the best trails “just because of the amount of equipment (they) have,” and because the volunteer dedication at the club “is probably the best you’ll find anywhere.”

Snowmobile friendly community

If you’re thinking about starting your season or visiting the trails in Yorkton any time of the season, Bilous recommended good clothing for those cold days, available at any of the local outfitters, and said that the trail system will access most of the hotels in Yorkton.

“We’re probably the only city that has passed a bylaw to allow snowmobiles into the community, so it’s very snowmobile friendly,” he said.

Meet the Rider 

Name: Rick Bilous

Lives in: My wife and I live on an acreage just north of Yorkton.

Hometown: Yorkton

Age: 60

First sled: My first sled was a 1968 WildOne Comanche 400, great little sled.

Current sled: I currently drive a 2012 Polaris Assault 800.

What is your favourite riding area? We have a great area to ride in starting in Yorkton and going all the way to Swan River, Manitoba. This area usually has lots of snow and the terrain varies from flat land to hilly terrain to forest. This is my favorite riding area. Trails in our area are some of the best, making for great riding.

Describe your riding style: My favourite riding is trail and cross-country riding, depending on snow conditions.

What is it that keeps you coming back, year after year? The people we ride and associate with; winter is a slower time and we get to enjoy our friends more. Another reason is being able to enjoy winter; the soft white snow, the wildlife and the beautiful, sunny days. Our snowmobile club and others have set up warm-up shelters for all snowmobilers to enjoy. This is a great way to make winter an enjoyable season.

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