For a little over three years now, I’ve worked at the Val-d’Or Tourism and Convention Bureau. As part of my job, I often talk about snowmobiling in Val-d’Or and Abitibi-Témiscamingue, when I am on the road promoting our area or assisting a visitor at our tourist information office. I suggest itineraries, talk about how great and beautiful the snowmobile trails are, let people know which sections are more straightforward and which are more technical, but I had not actually done any sledding for about 20 years!
My only memories of snowmobiling are being bundled up in sheepskins, squished like sardines into the back of a passenger sleigh with my two sisters. Between our helmets, our size and the tight space, we couldn’t really see a thing. So, for me, snowmobiling was just a slow, uncomfortable way of getting to the family cottage.
I have always felt a little uneasy promoting snowmobiling when I don’t even do it. I feel as though I am talking through my hat. And then there was the fear of misleading someone despite carefully studying our regional snowmobile map and frequent conversations with local sledders who know the trails and the terrain. The doubt and uneasiness that have always lurked at the back of my mind will soon be gone because in less than 24 hours, I’m heading out for a weekend of snowmobiling!
The stand of Tourisme Abitibi-Témiscamingue during a snowmobile show in Québec in 2015, which I participated to.
Along for the ride will be my uncle, his 7-year-old daughter, and one of her friends as well as a few of my uncle’s friends, all old hands at snowmobiling. My sister will join us too; she’s a real novice like me! We’ll leave from Val-d’Or, spend the night at the Pourvoirie des Îles du Lac Duparquet and head back to Val-d’Or the next day. We will cover about 440 km in all. I am very excited about finally getting out. By all accounts, sledding gives you a wonderful sense of freedom. I am also pretty nervous. Why? Because, for logistical reasons, my sister and I will need to spell each other off driving the snowmobile.
My sister who were pretty happy to find all the equipment we will need for our trip.
So, I’ve been preparing for this excursion all week, pumped full of anticipation and adrenalin. My sister and I had to round up all the gear we needed: helmet, snowmobile suit, mittens, long underwear, woollen socks, snowmobiling map, etc. Since neither of us usually do any sledding, we got our parents’ old snowmobiling gear out of mothballs and borrowed the rest. We were all ready, with our mismatched suits straight out of the nineties, but still cozy warm. They did the trick! Stay tuned, Dear Reader, for a few gems in the second part of this blog! J To satisfy my need for a modicum of control over the unknown, I also sought out advice on driving a snowmobile. I contacted my uncle and my sister a million times to go over the various stages of our trip and to sort out the most minute details, right down to what we’d eat for breakfast the morning of our departure! Yup. Under stress, I can get a bit controlling…
Here we are now, just hours from leaving, and everything is just about ready to go. A few more things to buy, luggage to secure on the machines and then a good night’s sleep to be in good shape for the trip. As soon as I’m back, I’ll tell you about my first actual snowmobiling outing. For the first time, I’ll be able to give a firsthand account of the beauty of our land, the great camaraderie, the freedom we felt. And this time I’ll know what I am talking about!