When he stepped into the role as president of the Kamsack Sno Drifters Club 308, Tyson Leis knew he would be stepping into some big shoes. Specifically - the shoes of previous president, Gary Clark, who had helmed the non-profit club for a whopping 40 years prior.
Driven by a dedicated group of volunteers, the Kamsack Sno Drifters groom and maintain over 100 kilometres of back country trails that form a sweeping circuit between the communities of Kamsack, Togo, Veregin, Madge Lake, the Snow Palace warmup centre outside Canora, Norquay, and as far as Roblin. As part of the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association, the club’s membership fees support the management of trail maps, conditions, snow reports, along with public awareness of snowmobile safety issues and safety training.
“Volunteer crews use a snow cat with a blade to drag the trails, maintain route signage, and ensure warm-up shacks are clean and stocked with wood,” Leis shared with the Kamsack Times on a phone interview. “We have just finished a brand new 19 kilometre trail.”
In addition to all of the usual seasonal tasks, Leis mentioned that volunteers have committed to extra cleaning and posting signage to encourage users to abide by COVID precautions.
Normally, the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association reports snowmobiling as one of Saskatchewan's greatest tourism draws. However, in this time of pandemic concern, while tourism is highly discouraged, locals can enjoy having the fresh powder trails all to themselves as a way to safely deal with winter cabin fever.
Last week was International Snowmobile Safety Week (January 16-24). Outdoor enthusiasts were reminded to stay vigilant when on or near frozen lakes, especially as warmer temperatures and unstable ice conditions can create a potentially fatal risk.
Officials are urging people to check ice thickness before heading out on Saskatchewan water bodies, while dangerous ice conditions have led Ontario to already report six snowmobile-related deaths this winter. On one Sunday alone, three people died in two separate cases of snowmobiles breaking through the ice of Georgian Bay, Ontario.