It seems as if we’ve been talking about a snowmobile trip for eons. We can’t wait to go flying along fast straightaways, climb hard up steep hills and snake sharp curves. With over half of Alberta’s zillions of snowmobile trails surrounding them, Grand Prairie and Whitecourt in northwestern Alberta are great places to start. Winter is here at last and so are we. It’s time to stop dreaming and start sledding.
Snowmobiling in Grande Prairie
Grande Prairie’s Swan City Snowmobile Club has been going strong since 1973 and is the province’s largest club with 500 riders. And since it’s the local clubs that groom the trails, this means there are lots of trails here.
Just 20 minutes outside the city, we’ll hit Big Mountain Creek Provincial Recreation Area, a staging area for 150 km (93 mi) of groomed forest trails and two warm-up cabins. If we make it a party and bring a big group, we can reserve the 25-spot group camping area and have direct access to trails as soon as we wake in the morning.
After a couple nights of winter camping, we might crave a soft warm bed. The snowmobile friendly Stanford Hotel has rooms with kitchens, family rooms with bunk beds and suites with in-room Jacuzzis. Heaven! Parking is secure in an inner courtyard, but for riders who just can’t be too far from their machines, they also have ground floor rooms. And a big supply of towels for wiping down your sleds – all you have to do is ask.
Sledding the Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle is 350 km (217 mi) of groomed trails through forests, over rolling hills and out to open expanses of deep powder. The whole circuit – from Whitecourt to Swan Hills and Fox Creek – takes veteran riders about nine hours, but we plan to tackle it a slice at a time. And with our smartphone-compatible map we’ll always know how far we’ve gone and how far we have to go.
Staying in Whitecourt, the official Snowmobile Capital of Alberta, we’ll be among kindred spirits. Folks here love to sled. The town even has a bylaw that lets riders sled straight through town and out to the trails, which means no trailers for us – we’ll just hop on and ride.
Of course, to find those off-the-beaten-track trails, we’ll ask the locals. The Trailblazers Club, when they’re not out grooming the trails, rides every Sunday. And word has it they also hang out at the local watering hole. No need to be shy – these passionate riders love to share stories and advice.