Interview with Tony Sheppard – NLSF GM
Sledworthy Magazine reached out to Tony Sheppard, the General Manager of the NL Snowmobile Federation to see if we could shed some light on the 2015 season. The scorecard for the 2014 season had 13,000 trail passes sold and 800 day passes.
SW: Tony, you’re still new to the Snowmobile Industry, tell us more about you?
I was born and raised in the Deer Lake (NL) area. I joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) pretty well right out of high school and served for over 36 years. Most of my CAF career was in the Engineering side of things, but for the last number of years was involved on the administrative side of things. When I left the CAF I returned to Deer Lake and my current position with the Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation (NLSF). My favourite phrase last season was “that’ll be a summer project”, thinking that things would slow greatly during the summer. Realization has set in that this would not come to pass, there are so many things that need to progress for the following season to keep things running smoothly.
SW: With one year under your belt, what was the biggest eye-opener from last season?
How busy the operating season is! Didn’t realize how many moving parts were in the operations side of the NLSF. With 20 operating groomers, 30 groomer operators, office/shop staff of four and 100’s of volunteers, things get pretty hectic during our busy period. I am consistently amazed at the level of dedication by the volunteers who put so much into the trail system.
SW: What was a high point from last season?
The great snowmobiling season we experienced last season. This was one of the best snowmobiling seasons we have experienced in over 20 years. Both the length and the amount of snow, it seemed like every second day we were getting more and more snow. It was great for the snowmobilers but hard on the grooming budget for maintenance and fuel.
SW: How often do you get out enjoying the wintery fun? What are you riding this winter?
I try to get out on the trails as much as possible. I really enjoy getting to new areas and exploring, especially late in the season when the weather and snow condition improves. I believe Newfoundland offers some of the best snowmobiling conditions and scenery anywhere in Canada and the US. We have huge wide open areas available for snowmobiling with little or no restrictions. I currently ride a 2008 Arctic Cat Bearcat 4 stroke machine. It has served me very well. I like the extended range and quiet operation. Maybe it’ll soon be time for a change.
SW: What can folks expect for the 2015 season?
Hopefully a little more consistency in the grooming product. With the length of last season, we experienced some challenges in providing grooming resources in all areas on a consistent basis. This was more apparent in some areas that others. I guess it isn’t a surprise to anyone that costs of operations are increasing. Both fuel and groomer parts, our main costs, have increased significantly during the last couple of years.
SW: In your opinion, what will it take to get more folks supporting the NLSF trail system?
As the general public are made aware of the benefits of having a groomed trail system they will buy in. Most people only think about the trail grooming but there are many things that need to happen before the groomer goes out on the trail. We have a large amount of infrastructure that requires continual maintenance before the groomer goes out. Bridge repair and replacement, alder clearing, beaver dam removal, washout repair, trail de-stumpage; these are just a few of the things that require constant attention. This to say our system is much more than just the grooming of trails.