COVID-19 may have shut down a number of activities this year but one socially-distanced outdoor activity is still on: snowmobiling.
To that end, Battlefords Trail Breakers Snowmobile Club is proceeding with what they anticipate will be a busy season, according to Dale Woytiuk, the local Sask. Snowmobile Association delegate and assistant trail master.
For this season two new shelters have been added — one was built and donated by E & L Building Contractors and is located off Highway 4 at Jackfish Lake, and it is the biggest shelter they have.
They also built one at Hatherleigh located up on a CN Rail bed just north of there on the way to Rabbit Lake. It was put up in the last couple of weeks.
Woytiuk notes that snowmobiling as an outdoor activity is regarded as reasonably safe under the COVID-19 restrictions. Saskatchewan Health Authority has provided them with shelter guidelines and special signage in each shelter to keep people safe. They have also added hand sanitizer, paper towels and toilet paper dispensers as extra precautions in the shelters.
Besides indoor wood stoves, they are adding outdoor fire pits so groups can enjoy a wiener roast outside the shelters.
The club is right now actively preparing for the snowmobiles on the trails.
“Members are out putting signs up, getting trails ready,” said Woytiuk. They hope to have it all ready to start grooming within the next two weeks and then the trails will be open.
The club itself was formed back in 1998 and maintains and grooms 450 km worth of trails in the northwest from Glaslyn up to Turtle Lake.
Out of the 10,000 km of trails on the province the Trail Breakers have the second-largest number of kilometres. Along the trails are 12 warm-up shelters which are equipped with firewood, axes, solar panels, LED lighting and outdoor washroom. They are there for the convenience of riders and also as a safety feature.
The club runs two groomers that they have purchased over the last 20 years worth in excess of $100,000 each, and between all the shelters and signs they have close to $300,000 invested in their club.
They are already seeing riders out on the trails, and Woytiuk said snowmobile sales have been very high as people take part in the activity this year.
“A lot of people are entering into the sport that haven’t been in it before. It’s a family activity, it’s a fun thing to do — it makes the winter pass very quick.”
He does say that in order to be safe, you must have your snowmobile plated and registered through SGI.