The new 20’ x 26’ structure will receive heat and lighting soon. In the meantime, it is open for sledders to take shelter in, have a seat or use the bbq on the new deck. /DENNIS VANDERMEULEN

By Andrea Arnold

The McBride Big Country Snowmobile Association has been active in the off-season helping to improve the riding experiences for the many snowmobile enthusiasts that frequent the trails around McBride.

Belle Mountain warming cabin
The warming cabin on Belle Mountain, originally built in 2005, was a 16’x20’ room.

“Feedback from sledders was that it wasn’t big enough,” said association Vice-President Jesse Schafer. “It is a popular hill for families and the cabin needed to have more space, especially now, with COVID guidelines.”

Plans were made to more than double the footprint with a 20’x20’ expansion. Thanks to a Northern Development Initiative Trust grant, local contractor Dennis Vandermeulen of Trust-co Construction began work on the expansion at the end of July with land leveling.

Due to the rural location of the cabin, getting supplies, equipment and manpower to the site was a challenge.

“The club did some work on the access road, widening and smoothing it so that equipment and supplies: concrete, windows, lumber and trusses could be hauled up,” said Schafer.

Also, the early arrival of snow in the higher elevations caused accessibility to become an issue near the end.

The roof on the existing building was removed and a new tin roof was installed. During a Sunday workbee, Vandermeulen and a small army of volunteers lifted the trusses into place across the whole structure.

In addition to the expansion, a second set of stairs were added to a large front deck and second door installed to allow more people to use the space while maintaining a safe distance. The inside of the building has a dividing half wall creating two room spaces, and each side will have a propane heater and LED lighting.

Rod Whelpton of Adrenaline Services hopes to get the heaters running within the next week or so, and the lights will be installed a bit later in the season.

Renshaw bridge deck
On Nov. 13 & 14 several local volunteers along with some sledders from Alberta were hard at work on the bridge 2km up the Renshaw.

“In the off-season, a truck had broken through the bridge deck rendering it a hazard, and the club was told by engineers we would not be able to use it unless we did something about it,” said Schafer. “The bridge foundation was still good so we only needed to replace the deck.”

Mac Cochrane worked with the club to locate 12 bridge deck modules, and the club received a $5,000 Skidoo PASS Grant to help with the costs.

The crew started working on the bridge at 8am on the 13th and worked two long days to complete the bridge. The project was a success and access to the Renshaw has been restored.

The club would like to thank everyone who volunteered to ensure the success of both projects by donating time, supplies and/or equipment.

There are still a few tasks that need to be done before the group is ready for the start of the season: some signage installation and trail cleanup. The group also plans to replace the loading ramps at each of the three main hills, Lucille, Renshaw and Belle, in the spring.

Community connection
Schafer is excited for the upcoming season. A valley original, she and her husband moved back from Alberta this summer and she couldn’t wait to get involved with the snowmobiling association.

“We came here to sled often,” she said. “Getting involved was important to me.” She would like to see a more personal relationship between the people on the mountains and the people in town.

“I would like to help link the snowmobile community with the local community,” she said. “The town can really benefit from the income that comes from the sledders.”

Last year was a record year and they anticipate another busy season.

The inside of the cabin, looking from the door of the old portion, across into the new. /DENNIS VANDERMEULEN