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Snowmobile trail system link slides along slowly

Whether it’s called an Arctic cat-nap, a Ski-doo-don’t, or a Polaris-isn’t, the ability for snowmobile enthusiasts to take their rides on a dedicated trail system through Lac La Biche County this winter is taking more time to Yamaha-ppen than expected.

Rob Kruk, the owner of Lac La Biche’s Full Tilt Powersports & Sales, is one of the people who has been spearheading the snowmobile trail system for the region, along with his friend Norm Charest, says the process has been slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The group pushing for the trail system, that will connect many of the existing Lakeland trails to the Lac La Biche area — and also serve as a connector to areas further west and south like Athabasca or Smoky Lake — has been trying to get paperwork approved to form a not-for-profit motorsports club and get Alberta Forestry permissions to ride on trails within the region. Both pursuits have been slowed by red tape and the pandemic, says Kruk.

The paperwork to approve the non-profit motorsports club is still waiting to be signed, due to COVID-19 the process is a lot slower than what it would normally be. It’s moving ahead … but slowly. “Without the paperwork, we can’t get permission from Alberta Forestry to use the snowmobile trails. We are also having problems with the proposed names we applied for, so we are changing our name continuously, and trying to get some paperwork in place,” he said, hopeful that approvals might eventually be in place by late December.

Kruk and Charest first brought up the idea to the community in February, hosting an information session that drew dozens of people in support. Since then, however, despite the continuing support, the process has been slowed at the government level.

“With the pandemic, everything has been slowed right down,” Kruk said.

Backcountry access

The trails that Kruk is wanting local residents and tourists to have access to are in more secluded areas around Lac La Biche and would link beginner and seasoned riders to remote lakes, as well. Kruk says the trails can show even long-standing residents to the area places they didn’t know existed. 

Once the club is formed, it will join the Alberta Snowmobile Association (ASA), which will give all snowmobile riders that have purchased a pass access to every trail in Alberta. The ASA requires that at least 15 people in the club purchase a pass. Kruk believes this won’t be an issue for area riders.

“I don’t think it will be difficult to get 15 people to purchase a pass. We have received a lot of interest in the club, we held a motorsports meeting back in February and we had a really good response,” he said.

There are big dreams to pursue for the snowmobile trail system and the club, says Kruk. Things like warm-up shelters, tying the trail system into Lakeland Provincial Park, and having people who know the trails well guide newcomers through a trail that suits their skillset. 

Once Kruk gets the green light to start the motorsports association in Lac La Biche, which could be as soon as mid-December, a team of people will be getting the trails ready so riders will be safe from fallen trees or anything that could cause an accident. The trails then will be marked and judged based on difficulty level so people can pick the path that is best for them.

Trail tourism

Since the trails will connect to other neighbouring municipalities, it will be a great way for Lac La Biche County to attract tourists and help boost the economy, says Kruk. 

“Once we actually have a trail system, and we have people joining us from other communities, the economic spin-off can be huge. If someone was to come through from Fort McMurray, they’d be spending money on a hotel, food, and fuel. It could really help bring more money into the community,” said Kruk.

For now, it is a waiting game for the ‘group with no name’ but lots of goals. With families looking for new and unique ways to spend time together during the Covid-forced restrictions — trail rides seem to be a perfect solution in the naturally socially-distanced Great Outdoors. Kruk is hopeful there will be some trail-riding news coming before the Christmas holidays.