Trail Blazing

Peace Valley Snow Riders 

By Move Up Magazine | Photography By Paul Lavoie 

Once you’re out there, there’s nothing like it. On the right trail, you see and feel things otherwise impossible. Arguably, it’s the most environmentally conscious way to explore and experience the outback while using a motorized vehicle, and with a seat on the back, you can share the experience.

The key though, to all of it, is the right trail. The right trail is endless. It leads you through hidden landscapes and a variety of settings without fear of accidentally “clotheslining” yourself on a barbed-wire fence or running into a grizzly bear habitat.

With its affiliate clubs, the Alberta Snowmobile Association has over 5,000 km of groomed trails available. Locally, the Peace Valley Snow Riders (PVSR) snowmobile club services the Peace Region. The PVSR have built three separate trails totalling 130 km and spanning three counties.

Move Up had the chance to meet with the Trail Identification Committee Chair, Dwayne Buchholtz, and Secretary Frank Armella of this award winning club. Of course, we took the opportunity to suit up and load up a couple of snowmobiles and visit one of the trails too.

Not only is snowmobiling fun and exciting, it is also a big economic driver – so much so that Ontario and Quebec have built nearly 65,000 km of trails. PVSR provides our region’s locals and newcomers with another recreational opportunity and addresses the seasonality of local tourism concern.

“Lots of people think you can go anywhere, but when it comes to areas of appropriate use we know all the don’ts,” explained Bucholtz. “There’s no snowmobiling in town. You need permission for private land and on primary and secondary highways, the ditches are not available for sledding. In addition, there are resource development areas and facilities, grazing leases, trapper’s lines, power lines and pipelines that sometimes have dangers and obstacles, so where can you go?”

In short, PVSR trails are the answer. They work with all the necessary stakeholders, so all the end user has to to do is pick up a $90 PVSR Membership, which includes a seasonal Trail Pass recognized on any associated Alberta Snowmobile Association club trail in Alberta.

Current PVSR trails include the Leddy Lake Trail, which is 40 km long and complete with comprehensive signage. There is Wesley Creek Trail, in Northern Sunrise County, which is 30km long. And, there is the Smith Mills Trail, which is 60km long and extends from the County of Northern Lights, north of Figure Eight Lake, to Clear Hills County.

“We are working to an international snowmobile standard called Semi-Developed, which is occasionally groomed and five metres wide. Right now we aim to keep it to this standard, but there are spaces where we are limited to two-to-three metres,” said Buchholtz.

The PVSR also maintains signage standards.

“Our trails are marked quite similar to highways, with corner signs, or open water, or anything the driver needs to know so you can drive the trails at night too,” said Armella.

Currently, these three trails do not connect.

“We needed to start somewhere and we wanted to get trails going in the various places where people live Clear Hills County has given us $20,000 and we want to extend the trail into Hines Creek and up near Worsley,” said Buchholtz.

With only nine people on the executive board, PVSR have ambitious plans to reach a potential of over 500 kilometres of trails. As with most organizations, continued support from their stakeholders and growth in their membership are essential to their success.

“In spite of delays and setbacks, the Club remains committed to providing a network of trail on north the west and east side of the Peace River,” said Buchholtz.

According to Buchholtz and Armella, the key stakeholders have provided an indication of support for a Cadotte River and Misery Mountain trail, and there are many other trails on their list, but the PVSR have not yet begun identifying specific routes.

“We’d really like to tie in some historical significant trails, but at this point outside of small sections we haven’t been able to do so. That would be neat in the future,” said Buchholtz.

PVSR’s trajectory has been impressive. From the start to finish, building a trail takes years. It requires rigorous planning with applicable stakeholders and a large financial investment.

“It would cost someone else probably over $250,000 to build the trails we have built, but we’ve probably spent about $110,000, due to plenty of help from volunteers,” said Buchholtz.According to Buchholtz, aside from its capital expenditures, PVSR has been operating using primarily its membership fees ($90 per member per season). In addition, PVSR have been working with the Webberville Community Forest Association, which has developed an all-weather trail on the other side of the DMI connector. PVSR was approached to operate the 10-12 km trail in the winer time using the groomer they own.

“We’re big on shared use. Leddy Lake is an existing recreational area, and we have a warm up shelter there and signage there. If a cross country ski group came out there that would just be perfect. Also, we’d really like someone, or a group, to organize social events. That’s our approach. Come talk to us,” said Buchholtz.

For information on trails visit > > Peace Valley Snow Riders