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