While the most exciting time of the year for snowmobilers is in the winter months, the off season isn't the time off for snowmobile clubs that people think. There are so many administrative and infrastructure obligations to address along with meetings especially in relation to land access issues during the summer months. Once the riders have parked their sleds for the season the clubs kick it into high gear!
Trail Maintenance and Brushing
Spring, Summer and Fall are all busy times on the trails for the clubs. In the spring before the final thaw many clubs have to go out and remove temporary snow bridges, clean out culverts, pick up pallets, pull up stakes, and remove any trees from creeks that have the potential to dam up water above our trails. They may have to close gates or install signs informing summer users that the area is closed. Through the summer many clubs run brushing programs to remove willow trees and widen trails for the groomer to get though. They also clean out ditches to stop erosion, re-slope trail surface if needed, and remove deadfall or danger trees near our trails and shelters.
Warm up shelter Construction and Maintenance
If you see a project happening on the ground this year you can be sure that new shelter or parking lot has been at least three years in the planning. Clubs must complete full project proposals with budgets, create engineered drawings, complete environmental and/or archeological assessments, submit applications to Government for permission and finally work to secure the necessary funds to complete the project. Of course when you build something new it comes with ongoing responsibility for the Club to properly maintain this asset long term. That is why the process is long and only strong clubs that can demonstrate long term stewardship are successful. Part of that ongoing commitment is ensuring that all shelters, new or old, have routine maintenance completed each season. This work can include painting, replacing stairs, clearing away fire hazards, repairing chimneys, fixing solar power, stocking firewood, and rodent proofing to prevent pack rats, porcupines, pine martins, and squirrels from calling the club’s shelter their home. Outhouses may have to be addressed, repaired and maintained, along with basic upkeep for existing structures. With many of these projects being volunteer driven, recruiting multiple hands to help is necessary to complete work in the short window of time the summer lends.
Groomer and Equipment Maintenance
Each season, each club goes over their equipment and completes routine maintenance or sends their groomer out for necessary repairs. Many sledders may not know that the average cost of a groomer is over $100,000 and that repair bills can be in the ten's of thousands of dollars especially if equipment is not properly maintained. In the spring most groomers are moved down to a members shop for storage where most maintenance is done to the groomers or drags with a final once over in the fall before being moved back up into position. Clubs can often get in the vicious circle where they are spending so much to maintain old equipment that they cannot save enough to replace the equipment. Then if the equipment is broke down riders get frustrated and further reduce the clubs budgets by not buying memberships. So help your club break the cycle by helping where you can or supporting them through memberships. Someone who is mechanically inclined is always appreciated and nothing depletes a clubs bank account quicker then their groomer.
Grant Sourcing and Writing
Several funding initiatives surface during the spring and summer months, including many tourism and government funding opportunities. If your club has someone proficient in grant writing consider yourself fortunate, for there are a lot of dollars out there that could greatly improve your club’s operations. But the application processes require detailed planning, execution and followup. There are few grants out there that will completely fund a project so often in conjunction with grants the clubs will need to coordinate fundraising campaigns or apply to several grants at once. If you are a technical person that is good at writing proposals and planning projects please consider helping your club with grant applications. Nothing feels better than helping your local club pull all the pieces together and complete a new shelter that will be there for all sledders to enjoy for generations to come.
Fundraising Events and Membership Drives
No snow, no problem, sometimes the off season, is the perfect time for a fundraising event or membership drive...especially in the fall. Riders are so eager to get back out on the snow that attendance can be high. All sledders are eager to get started and are looking for ways to reconnect with their riding group or meet new people. The BCSF also runs their annual #BCSFEarlyRenewalContest each season so that all members that support their BCSF Club before November 30th get entered for a chance at some great prizes.
Often during the summer months there seems to be a focus on the sport of snowmobiling for consultation processes. There are often meetings with Government around wildlife, new government policies and often written submissions required on each of these. Clubs are attending the BCSF Annual General Meeting, the BCSF Annual Club Congress, actively recruiting volunteers for their work bees, recruiting new Board Members, updating websites, filing annual reports with Societies BC, creating operation plans for the coming season and reports on last season for Government, plus reviewing industrial plans for the coming season to try to mitigate impacts to our trails..
By the time snow flies Clubs have booked and attended most of the Western Canada Snowmobile Shows and worked with their local tourism partners to create new maps, advertising packages, and to secure great snowmobile offers for their riders for the coming season. The BCSF is no exception as we work hard each summer to ensure that our #memberbenefit program is bigger and better each year. Many clubs set the meeting schedule and plan all their events with dates at the first meeting of the season. Many members want events but when they are actually planned fail to attend. It is disheartening to volunteers to spend time planning something and have no one show up. So attend your club meetings and help them plan events on dates that work for many of the members.
So as you can see the business of snowmobiling never stops. It is not all just work though, each of these club activities is also a great opportunity to get outside, meet new friends and an opportunity to invest your time into a sport you love. Supporting your local club ensures that when your track touches snow this winter that the trails will be open, the trail is groomed, the shelters are warm, and that your snowmobile club will still be there to ensure it all happens again next year!
Volunteers getting it done with the Fernie Snowmobile Association