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Whitecourt Trailblazers Hold Huge Snowmobile Weekend

by Scott A. Sumner

    The Whitecourt Trailblazers celebrated their 30th anniversary as  a snowmobile club with a bang February 13th to 16th. This town of  9500 people had over 1000 snowmobiles on the ground for the many  activities that took place including a poker run on both Saturday and 
Sunday, as well as banquets, dance and the Polaris Freestyle Sled  Invasion Tour. “ This is our 30th anniversary year and we wanted to  make it a big weekend. We applied for the Alberta Snowmobile Annual  Jamboree that travels around  different clubs using a bid process and  were successful so  a lot is happening at Whitecourt this weekend,  the  Snowmobile Capital of Alberta,” said Chet Brewster, Director  with Whitecourt Trailblazers and  Chairman of the Poker Run 2009  whose club has about 300 members. Our members are also  from  Edmonton, St Albert and other communities in the region. They enjoy  what we do as a club.”

    “ This is our main fundraiser of the year. We also have the  Polaris Freestyle Event with 2 shows Friday and Sunday nights. There is a $10 fee to attend this and we have two bands performing  including Rules of Nine from Edmonton. We hope to have more than 1000 riders for the two days of the Poker run  on our 100 km and 60  km loops with three check points on the trail,” said Chet. “We usually have about 2 to 2 12 feet of snow here but we had a warm 
spell and that lost some snow for us. The trails are nice though  fully treed and you have some areas on the  pipe lines to play. With  the Sled Invasion event we hope to raise over $40,000 for trail  development and maintenence.Part of the sponsorship we have received 
this year is from Arctic Cat,  a 2009 Crossfire  Sno Pro. We have  sold tickets for $5 ticket and would like to thank Arctic Cat for  there support  Our club has worked on the event for over a year. A snowmobile trail pass is $60 before Jan 1st and after 70  after or  you can buy a trail pass for a day for 15.”
    Whitecourt is a forestry town, including   lumber and a pulp  mill. It is huge oil and gas area as well with  60 to 70 % of the  economy in oil and gas.  Whitecourt is a  busy bustling town with an  average resident age of 29.3 years old. There is a great  divided  road from Edmonton which is a 2 hour drive away.    “  Whitecourt it  is a pretty young community and we try to keep what we do in the club  fun for our members. The best thing  as a group we do is our trail  clearings in the fall. We go out on our quads after a little bit of  frost has set in, take our chain saws and we are geared up to clear  trails. It is just a blast with great comradery. We just have a great  time.  After our meetings we always have a couple beverages and it is 
fun. Our riding season is usually from before Christmas to early  April sometimes.” said Chet.

Above : Tara Rennie, 4th degree black belt and George VanderBurg MLA, 
for  Whitecourt St Ann were part of our Poker Ride Team!

    My time at Whitecourt included riding during the poker run with  George VanderBurg MLA, for  Whitecourt St Ann.  “ I have never seen  so many people at a snowmobile event. I was born and raised here in  Whitecourt and it is absolutely amazing with people from other 
provinces and the states and everyone has a big smile on their faces.  It was unbelievable to see the hundred and hundreds of machines. You  talk about a renewable  industry, tourism  never ends. People like to  have fun and when they are smiling they are spending money,” said George VanderBurg. “ People across Canada think the economy is  booming in Alberta but it is not. We have 1350 hotel rooms in  Whitecourt and until Thursday night we had 200 booked. With the  snowmobile rally you cant find a room. It is a economic benefit. It  also brings a lot of hope and brings people together to celebrate   with their families. There are  kids here, grandparents the whole age  goup. There is a lot of younger guys with fast machines but also us older guys with slower machines as well. Every one fits.”
     George VanderBurg was a cabinet minister in the the  Ralph Klein  government and now  sits on Treasury Board and Chairs the Committee  on Public Safety and Security. Previously he was on the town council  and acted as mayor of Whitecourt. “ Treasury Board is a lot of work.  In Alberta we are not used to $35 dollar a barrel oil. We have no  debt and a sustainability fund tucked way of $13 billon. I think we  will  spend it the next few years on infrastructure so we dont lose  the trades people and keep building. Oil at $140 was a commodity play  and  at $35 is a commodity play. Prices will settle out.” said  VanderBurg.]

    “ The club has always been the first one to do their share. They  raised $40,000  and we kicked in the rest  for the groomer. Traditionally Whitecourt was known as a community when you could ride  anywhere, but as our community grew to 9500 people, we came up with a 
bylaw including defined trails that allowed them  to continue riding  from their house. I can leave from my house,  fill up with gas and  take the most direct route out of town. At 10 pm the machine is  parked. It has worked very well,”  said George VanderBurg.  “ People are  amazed when they come from Edmonton 2 hours away, stay in a  hotel and ride. You can ride the Golden triangle 100 km to Swan  Hills, 100km to Fox Creek and 100 km to Whitecourt on some 300 km of  beautiful tails with lots of snow.”
    “ There is no doubt the forestry industry here in Alberta is the  same as in Ontario. Our major consumer is the US and about 90% is  consumed there. They are not buying as much and the community price  is low. What is saved us is a 80 cent dollar. If we we at par I dont 
think we would be shipping as much wood as we do today. What I am  afraid of is as the US keeps printing money the worlds economy will  figure out the US economy is not so stong and our dollar  could  strengthen and it will hurt communities like Whitecourt,” said 
George. “ The oil sands are based in Fort McMurray is huge but  natural gas and light crude in this part of Alberta is big. All the  major service companies from all over the world are here in  Whitecourt. It a centre of service for all the oil patch and  because of this service center there is a lot of jobs based out of the community. So much is seasonal work and from freeze up to April it  can be hard to get a room. Summer it is tourists and tree planting .”
    “ I am very optimistic abut Canada. We have a well trained work force, low debt compared to any other jurisdictions and I think the  leadership we have been getting in Ottawa match what we have in  Alberta-  a free spirit , a entrepreneurship where making money is a  good thing. We want our companies to make money and be good sponsors  and corporate citizens. People think the government make the economy  go but people who think that are wrong. It is small business that  makes things happens.”noted VanderBurg.

  Special Thanks to BARRHEAD MOTOR SPORT LTD.  for the use of their  
Polaris RMK 700 during the Poker run

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