winter fest, snow mobile, recreation, VARDA, Tourism Valemount, snowmobile, snowmobile race
From the 2014 races. Photo: Laura Keil

By: Korie Marshall

This year’s Winter Festival features the annual snowmobile drag races and Mountain Mania 8, an annual event that hasn’t been to Valemount since 2011.

Last year 51 racers were registered in the sled drags at the Canoe River Campground. The racing is sanctioned by the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Racing Association. Numbers for this year aren’t available yet, as there is no pre-registration. Both pros and armatures can register the morning of the races, at the Valemount Visitor Centre from 8 am to 10 am.

Races start at noon, and offer cash prizes in six classes, plus classes for juniors (age 12-15) and Mini Sled Class (Kitty Cat). There will be a concession on site serving breakfast and lunch from 10-4, with proceeds to the Canoe Mountain Rodeo Association.

This year the award ceremony will be in conjunction with Mountain Mania 8, co-hosted by and Valemount Area Recreation Development Association. Mountain Mania is an annual banquet event that allows folks on the internet forum get together in person while sharing some riding and events in the hosting area. Tickets went on sale in October, and the event is sold-out.

Ron Willert created the site in 2006 to give winter outdoor enthusiasts a place to go to share information about riding in western Canada. People can post photos of their day’s riding and share information about conditions and terrain and the sport in general. Often members don’t meet each other in person outside of the annual Mountain Mania event.

Mountain Mania last came to Valemount in 2011, bringing some 200 sledders to the area for the weekend from across western Canada. Curtis Pawliuk, manager of VARDA, estimated at the time it brought $100,000 to the local economy, and attracted over 50 people to Valemount who had never rode in the area before.

Pawliuk says the event is held in different areas each year, and is growing. He says there could have been 250 tickets sold if VARDA could again host the event in the Valemount Secondary School gym, as was done in 2011. They weren’t allowed to book it this time, he says, because of a policy about not allowing alcohol in the school. That also cut down the number of tickets that could be sold, since other venues in the village, including the Community Hall, are smaller.

Pawliuk was hoping ongoing work on the Community Use Agreement with School District 57 might have allowed him to change venues back to the school gymnasium. The agreement sets the terms the community can use certain areas of the school outside of school hours. Valemount Council supported his request to use the gym for the event, but Pawliuk says the School Board refused to consider it.

Instead Mountain Mania 8 will be hosted at the Community Hall. Pawliuk says the 180 tickets were sold in two days.

The Winter Festival is an event organized annually by Valemount Tourism. Last year it also featured a snowmobile poker run organized by the Valemount Snowgoers Club and VARDA.