Blazing The Trails Together…Tracks & Memories
Family snowmobiling creates winter wonder memories
by Joey Fitzpatrick
The majestic peaks of the Long Range Mountains in western Newfoundland offer some of the most
spectacular scenery in Canada. Combine this with the highest average snowfall in the region and you have
all the ingredients for a snowmobiler’s paradise.
It’s more than enough incentive to convince Kim Ellis’ family to load four snowmobiles onto a trailer
several times every year for the full-day drive from Lethbridge, by Bonavista Bay at the other end of the
“We do a lot of snowmobiling at home as well, but we don’t have the excellent conditions that the west
coast has,” Ellis says. “And the season is long. We go in April and May some years. A few years ago, we
were snowmobiling on May 17 at Great Harbour Deep.”
Their son, Ben, had his own Bombardier 380 when the Ellis family made their first winter trip to western
Newfoundland nine years ago. He was nine years old at the time.
“We’ve never gone without him,” Ellis says. “We’ve gone as a family every single time. His girlfriend came
with us for the first time last year.”
Family adventure is what snowmobiling is all about. Wellington, N.S., native Randy Stevens was just
getting into the sport around the time he met his future wife some three decades ago. He bought Yvonne
her first sled and so it’s no surprise that their sons, Kyle and Dylan, have been around snowmobiles all
“We used to take them on the sled as soon as they were old enough that their helmets would fit,” Stevens
recalls. They would begin by sitting up front, gradually learning to steer on an open stretch, then learning
to control the gas and brake and how to lean into turns. “We’re right there to assist them with any
Pretty much every weekend during winter, the Stevens family can be found on the groomed trails around
Warwick Mountain near Wentworth, N.S. They share a four-bedroom “family camp” with relatives and,
during the day, traverse the vast network of trails in the Nova Scotia interior.
“There’s a group of other camps all around us, so we snowmobile and socialize together. It’s our own
little community,” Stevens says. “It’s all off-grid.”
Among Stevens’ neighbours on Warwick Mountain is Jason Crowell’s family, who also happen to reside in
“We had never met until we came up here to go snowmobiling,” Crowell says. “Our cottages are next door
to each other. We’re very fortunate here. There are many generous landowners that allow us to run a trail
through their land.”
While Crowell grew up in Yarmouth, N.S., not exactly in the snowbelt, he became an avid snowmobiler
after he met his wife, who is from Stephenville, N.L. Last year, Crowell and his younger son, Jarrett, did an
eight-day, 2,800-kilometre journey that took them through New Brunswick, Quebec and Maine.
In many respects, snowmobiling is a team sport, especially when it comes to grooming the trails. Robert
Taylor is the president of the Northern Lights Trail Blazers in Hartland, N.B., which has some 250
members and grooms approximately 270 kilometres of trails. Neighbouring clubs pick up the trails
where the Trail Blazers leave off, so snowmobilers can venture far and wide on a network of
uninterrupted groomed trails.
Each winter, the Trail Blazers hold a supper and auction, where they raffle off a snowmobile to raise
funds for grooming machines. This year, the prize is a Ski-Doo Renegade X 900 Turbo.
“It’s been a very successful event,” Taylor says. “Tickets have sold out.”
In January, Taylor was in the Squamish area of British Columbia on a snowmobile vacation with his
daughter. Snowmobiling in British Columbia has its own charm, he says, but it’s very different from the
East Coast variety.
“In this part of B.C., you can’t really go on a trip and stay overnight; you just typically go on daytrips.
Whereas back east, we can go on the trails for days.”
Snowmobiling has long been a Christmas tradition in Marlana Oliver’s family in Alaska, P.E.I. When she
was just three years old, she received a Kitty Cat, a miniature Arctic Cat, for Christmas. Now, that same
sled has been handed down to her five-year-old son, Tye. At just under two years old, their daughter Tillie
is not yet ready for her own sled, but it won’t be long. Along with Oliver’s husband, Jimmy, the family will
join friends and explore the mix of groomed rail beds, which stretch the length of the island and off-rail
“We do a lot of cross-country with no groomed trails as well,” Oliver says. “Some days, a group of us will
just go out without a plan and see where we end up.”
Oliver was thrilled when a heavy blast of snow fell in Alaska, P.E.I., on Oct. 24 last year, although she
admits some of her non-snowmobiling friends were less than thrilled to see snow in October.
“I just tell people, ‘You have your hobbies in the summer and we have ours in the winter.’”
There’s plenty of jaw-dropping scenery to enjoy when snowmobiling in Western Brook Gorge, Gros
Morne National Park, N.L. Back row, from left: Garrett Holloway, Grant Holloway, Ben Ellis, Dave Lane,
Dave Ellis and Roy Holloway. Front row: Sandy Holloway, Kim Ellis and Ladawn Lane.
Marlana Oliver was probably in the minority to be thrilled by a snowfall on Oct. 24 last year in Alaska,
P.E.I. Here she is on that day with her daughter, Tillie.