The Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club is gearing up for what they think will be a good winter in the mountains as challenges around logging and little early snowfall resolve just in time for Christmas.
Gord Bushell, the club’s general manager, said early-season sledders were being directed to either the Blue Lake or the Eagle Pass sledding areas as active logging was going on on Queest and Owlhead, but grooming was planned on the trails on both of those mountains on Dec. 13. Once grooming is completed, all four of the hills the snowmobile club maintains will be ready to go.
Speaking immediately after a heavy snowfall on Dec. 12, Bushell said although the area had been a little shy of the snow they usually expect this time of year, it is coming along now and conditions are improving.
Bushell said the total number of riders who used the club’s trails last year was down by around 2,000. He said other B.C. snowmobiling destinations such as Revelstoke and Valemont observed similar use declines and cited an economic downturn, particularly in Alberta as a likely cause.
After attending several snowmobiling trade shows around Western Canada this year, Bushell said the amount of interest and products being bought suggests the trend established last year may be reversing.
As the snow falls and trails up the mountain are groomed, Bushell said it is important for riders to take safety into consideration. When Shuswap Search and Rescue attended a recent sled club meeting they went over the call-out procedure for club members who assist with searches. Bushell said the club has a list of 15-18 members who can assist with searches.
Also discussed on the safety front is a new standardized VHF radio channel posted on signs at the sled club’s cabins and trailheads. Bushell said the decision to adopt a standardized radiofrequency for emergencies was made after a VHF radio played a major role in rescuing some stranded sledders last year. He said the lost snowmobilers’ families were contacted and they told them which VHF frequency they monitored allowing them to be found more easily.
Along with the signage, Bushell said the snowmobile club’s cabins will be fitted with emergency medical toboggans provided by a grant-in-aid from the District of Sicamous. The toboggans can be used to get an injured person off the mountain if they are in an area a helicopter cannot reach.
Although cellphone coverage is available at some of the terrain maintained by the snowmobile club, particularly on prominent mountaintops, Bushell said carrying alternate emergency communication, such as a radio, Spot or InReach GPS device is advisable. Other essential equipment includes beacons, shovels and probes which can be lifesaving in the event of an avalanche.