Mayor Greg Dionne used to ride a Snow Jet, an “ancient” sort of snowmobile.
“It was just a blast,” he said. “It was a nice machine.”
That was long ago. Back then, he said, snowmobilers had to ride in ditches along the highway. It was unsafe, and impossible to see the natural beauty of winter in the parkland.
Since then, a group of avid snowmobilers have put in new trails around Prince Albert – and kept them clear. The Prince Albert Trail Riders have promoted safety, Dionne said, and helped make snowmobiling a sport fit for all ages.
On Thursday, the group’s treasurer signed the mayor up for an honorary membership, recognizing a mutual commitment to make Prince Albert a “a hub for snowmobiling in north-central Saskatchewan.”
Gerry Dolezsar thanked Dionne for helping change a bylaw that, as late as last year, barred snowmobiling in the city. Since then, the trail riders have made the city the nexus in a network of trails they plan to link up with Saskatoon, Canwood, Candle Lake and beyond.
“It’s a step-by-step process,” he said. “We’re hoping that, as a result of this, people will use the accommodations in Prince Albert.”
For the mayor, that could be a boon to businesses in the city.
“What people don’t realize, to us as a city snowmobiling is economic development,” he said. “They’ll buy fuel here, they’ll buy food and accommodations. If we could be a hub like that, that would just be great.”
Dionne said his love affair with snowmobiling deepened when he headed Northern Saskatchewan Tourism. It’s something he wants to resurrect. He wants to remind tourists that winter in Prince Albert is so much “more than hockey.” He said he’s looking forward to working with the trail riders in the future.
“It is a great sport, it’s a growing sport,” he said. “It’s a sport for all ages.”
The mayor wants to continue the push for even better snowmobile connections to city businesses, particularly gas stations.
The membership, he said, is a “very good honour.” For Dolezsar, it’s much more than that. He said it will give the mayor, and by extension the city, better access to the organization’s plans – so they can stay abreast of the latest developments in snowmobiling.
He said he hopes to see Dionne making good use of it when winter rolls in.
“If he wants, I’ll give him a ride,” Dolezsar said. “I have a sleigh we can put him on if he doesn’t want to drive.”
“Better have a big motor to tow me,” said the mayor.