May 26, 2019

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Opinion

Making way for fun

Behind the scenes of well-maintained snowmobile trails is a crew of dedicated volunteers

Saying that Glen Ell’s volunteer work involves getting up early is an understatement.

A founding member of the Springfield Pathfinders Snowmobile Club, Ell wakes up at 1 a.m. once a week so that by 2 a.m. he can start a 10-hour shift grooming the club’s trails.

“I enjoy doing this,” says Ell, a retired carpenter who lives in the RM of Springfield. “When you’re grooming the trails and sledders go by and they give you the thumbs up, it’s just great to see. They’re satisfied with the work.”

The Springfield Pathfinders formed in 1992 with the purpose of convincing local authorities to allow snowmobilers access to the Town of Oakbank.

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Saying that Glen Ell’s volunteer work involves getting up early is an understatement.

A founding member of the Springfield Pathfinders Snowmobile Club, Ell wakes up at 1 a.m. once a week so that by 2 a.m. he can start a 10-hour shift grooming the club’s trails.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Glen Ell volunteers as a trail groomer with the Springfield Pathfinders and helps maintain around 140 kilometres of trails.</p></p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Glen Ell volunteers as a trail groomer with the Springfield Pathfinders and helps maintain around 140 kilometres of trails.

"I enjoy doing this," says Ell, a retired carpenter who lives in the RM of Springfield. "When you’re grooming the trails and sledders go by and they give you the thumbs up, it’s just great to see. They’re satisfied with the work."

The Springfield Pathfinders formed in 1992 with the purpose of convincing local authorities to allow snowmobilers access to the Town of Oakbank.

Today, the club’s objectives include promoting membership and providing snowmobile-related recreational activities.

The club maintains about 140 kilometres of trails that cover the Springfield municipality, including Oakbank, Anola, Tyndall and St. Rita.

Ell, 66, has held just about every position possible in the club, including serving two years as president.

He got hooked on snowmobiling in 1976.

"When you’re riding a sled... you forget everything else that’s happening in your life," he says.

Darcy Wyborn, a member of the Sprucewoods Snowdrifters in southwestern Manitoba, enjoys snowmobiling for similar reasons.

"You get to explore some countryside that you would never see from the road, and wildlife you’d never see from the road either," says Wyborn, who lives near Brandon.

The 51-year-old mechanic started snowmobiling in 1999 and has been actively involved as a volunteer since 2001.

He spent seven years as president and treasurer of the Valleyview Sno-Riders club and currently serves as director of Snowmobile Manitoba’s (Snoman) western region.

Snoman provides leadership and support to its 52 member clubs, helping them maintain roughly 12,000 kilometres of trails throughout the province.

Ensuring that the trails are environmentally responsible and well-maintained with correct signage is paramount.

The trails include more than 150 warming shelters that require upkeep.

"I truly believe snowmobiling is a family sport out there, and the trails make it that," says Wyborn, who turns every snowmobiling activity he can into an adventure with his wife, Tracy, and their two daughters, Jessica and Miranda.

"When my kids were younger, it was the opportunity to get them out of the house and get some fresh air so they weren’t sitting in front of the TV," Wyborn says, adding that his brother and parents would often join them. "It was truly a family outing."

Volunteers like Wyborn and Ell are key to Snoman’s success, says Yvonne Rideout, the organization’s executive director.

Snoman has approximately 5,000 members and relies on about 3,000 volunteers throughout its trail system.

"Giving of one’s time lends to one’s well-being... and it certainly fights boredom," says Rideout, who volunteers for a few different organizations herself. "I know, for me, it allows me to share my talents, abilities and experiences, while at the same time learning new skills from other volunteers."

She encourages anyone who is interested in volunteering to contact their local snowmobile club, or to get in touch with Snoman by calling 204-940-SLED (7533) or emailing info@snoman.mb.ca.

"We’re always eager to have volunteers join us and to learn how snowmobiling works, and get out there and help us run the trails," she says.

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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