Opinion
January 16th, 2019
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Pass, Cash or Ass – Nobody Rides For Free

Snowmobiling generates eight billion dollars of revenue in Canada each year, contributing to small businesses, driving economic diversity and creating vibrant recreational opportunities.

Yet snowmobile clubs still report riders bucking their efforts; be it 'refusal to pay for services' at trailheads, riding in closed areas, keyboard critics or just a plain-old lack of volunteering.

When you appreciate how much the endeavors of your local club are worth, you’ll stop demanding discounts. Here are some ways you can support the future of snowmobiling in BC. Because pass, cash or ass—nobody should expect to ride for free.

Nobody Rides for Free

Pass

The British Columbia Snowmobile Federation (BCSF) is the unifying voice for 59 participating snowmobile clubs across BC. Unlike some provinces or states, there is no government legislation here to protect riding areas or to provide dedicated funding through a mandatory Provincial Trail Pass.

As a result, the BCSF formed in 1965 to offer guidance for the many smaller riding associations across BC. Banding together under one provincial umbrella allows local clubs to pool funds in support of a variety of important province-wide initiatives that would be too costly for many small organizations to undertake alone.

In winter 2018-2019, $35 of each primary BCSF membership sold will support strategies including: an economic impact study, preservation of access to riding areas and safe-sledding programs.

By maintaining their wide-angle view, the BCSF helps both clubs and government stakeholders to understand the real impacts of sledding here in BC. Riders can show support by purchasing an annual membership to a BCSF member club and become part of the provincial solution

Nobody Rides for Free

Cash

At the local level, clubs establish credibility for motorized trail users through provision of safe, orderly and enjoyable backcountry infrastructure. Specifically, the clubs are the entities that negotiate land-use permissions and manage increasingly complex day-to-day operations and finances.

Sledding is no longer a “mom and pop” show, featuring a cast of good ol’ boys who only head out (with a sixer of tin-ies) to groom their favorite zone when there’s enough cash in the can.

Nobody Rides for Free
Today's riders demand daily grooming, at huge expense to the overall budgets of clubs. Smooth trails are great, but they cost $$.

The new 2016 BC Societies Act defines obligations for clubs to hold elections and conduct transparent business including disclosure of financials. All monies collected must be used to support society-related expenses.

While a large percentage of budgets are used to fund grooming programs, smooth trails are only part of the financial demands placed on these not-for-profit organizations. If you didn’t happen to like the grooming that day, then consider the costs of the warming shelter, amenities, signage, event planning, parking lot maintenance, or the back of house expenses that are required to support your habit.

Nobody Rides for Free
Trail fees don't just cover the cost of grooming. They also help pay for expenses like the cost of construction and maintenance of backcountry shelters that sledders use.

While some costs may be absorbed under grants or corporate partnerships, the bulk of operating expenses are footed directly through a Pay-to-Play system. BC Trails and Rec Sites currently has 54 agreements in place across the province, 31 of which authorize collection of day fees on an assessed cost recovery basis for use of snowmobile trails and facilities.

Under authority of the provincial government (part 5 of the Forest Recreation Regulations under the Forest and Range Practices Act), non-payment of day use fees is a contravention and is enforceable by NRCAN, Conservation Officers and the RCMP.

Remember, every time your sled rolls through the trailhead kiosk counter, you are investing right back into your own riding experience.

Nobody Rides for Free

Ass

Clubs are built on the backs of volunteers and the occasional paid employee. These individuals disproportionately do most of the heavy-lifting for the bulk of trail users.

Obtaining land-use agreements, the creation and maintenance of backcountry infrastructure and administration of club matters all require time and money. Most sledders dramatically underestimate the resources required.

Given the notable increase in snowmobile activity, coupled with increasing rider expectations and legislative requirements, the reliance on these small groups of volunteers to manage, maintain and operate poses a significant challenge.

But if every rider in the province were to volunteer one day a year with their local club, attend one meeting, take the time to pass on a kind word or reach out to just one of their corporate connections when it came time for a sponsorship drive, I guarantee you this: BC will continue to be a heck of a great place to sled.

– Nicole

#joinasnowmobileclub