The ASA is celebrating its 50th anniversary with few resources but a strong desire to ride

“We are in triage mode.” — Chris Brookes

by Chris Brookes, ASA executive director

A snowmobiler dressed in black on a black snowmobile rides along a trail in the snow.
The Whitecourt Poker Rally in February 2020 was one of the season’s highlights for the Alberta Snowmobile Association. Photo courtesy Cindy Rougoor

The Alberta Snowmobile Association (ASA) is feeling the effects and consequences of the pandemic much like any other business or organization. Though we were somewhat fortunate that the COVID-19 virus spread around the end of our season, and we were able to mostly conclude our riding season in Alberta in a regularly scheduled manner, the planning for next season is tricky.

As one of the only jurisdictions in Canada that does not have a government-legislated trail pass, every season we must prepare, print and distribute our own memberships and associated paperwork. The ability to estimate these costs every year is already a delicate balance, basing our decisions upon sales of full season and day passes, as well as forecasting anticipated snowpack across the entire province. Now we must also anticipate snowmobilers' appetites to ride during a pandemic, as well as the unforeseen requirements by the clubs to facilitate access. Under the present stage-two guidelines, clubs will be required to have EVERY rider register and take a self-assessment health check at the staging area, along with the self-distancing of persons, machines and vehicles in staging areas and trails. Warm-up shelters will likely be closed (except for emergencies) and cookouts and group meals not allowed.

We are also in the midst of program re-evaluation, as most of our sponsors and public funding opportunities have disappeared. We are in triage mode as we work towards determining our basic member and club services while placing our other programs on hold until funding is identified. Our Board is now meeting on a much more regular basis—through ZOOM and other similar online meeting forums—so we are seeing much more of each other this summer—through a screen. For the coming season, we see this as the norm as we work towards more economical operations.

Our trail clubs and volunteers will still be out in the field this summer, when and wherever possible, understanding the present circumstances. Working with other trail groups in Alberta and our national snowmobiling partners (through the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations) we have shared many of the COVID-19 best practises and recommendations with our clubs so that they are able to work safely and productively on our network of over 6,500 kilometres across Alberta.

Through the medical and economic constraints that we are facing, we have also found the opportunity to find our essential core as a sport and as an organization. The ASA is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, in a similar fashion to 1971 in some ways, with few resources but a strong desire to ride! Our dedicated clubs, volunteers and riders continue their commitment to healthy outdoor winter recreation and enjoyment to Alberta’s beautiful backcountry. We will be building trails, riding, and enjoying ourselves as always. Sometimes you find some bumps and unexpected curves on the trail, but that doesn’t stop us or make us turn around.

See you on the trail.

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