The snowmobiling industry is Quebec’s most lucrative winter tourism revenue generator, responsible for generating in excess of $2 billion in annual economic activity. While this is impressive in and of itself, what is even more so is that the industry is built on the contributions of volunteers.
The evolution of volunteering
It should comes as no great surprise that the history of volunteering in the Quebec snowmobile industry follows closely that of the clubs as the two have been intrinsically linked from the very beginning.
Snowmobiling`s big popularity boom in the mid-60s and early 70s saw local snowmobile clubs pop up across the province as enthusiasts began to assemble to share their passion for this new and exciting activity. Events and group rides were organized and clubhouses soon began to appear as a focal point for the clubs’ activities. Funding at this time was raised mostly via contributions and events such as dinners. With money being a scarce resource, any and all work needing to be carried out was done by volunteers, individuals motivated by a desire to improve and evolve the organization and activity.
This trend continued with the arrival of grooming equipment and the establishment of formal trail systems. Trail maintenance, the construction of infrastructure and the installation of trail signage was undertaken by clubs, with members “pitching in” to get things done. In these early days of what would become organized snowmobiling, work and tasks were carried out in a more social, that is less formal, setting and atmosphere. And so it is that tens of thousands of dedicated volunteers helped to lay the foundation for what would become the world`s foremost snowmobile trail system.
Despite snowmobiling in Quebec having graduated to the ranks of major tourism industries, the system still depends on approximately 4500 dedicated volunteers who contribute 800,000 hours annually. Whether it’s installing trail signage, negotiating land-use permissions, grooming trails, or selling trail permits, volunteers are still at the heart of the Quebec snowmobiling industry.
Numerous club volunteers (both men and women) have been involved for decades now, driven by their desire to offer a safe, enjoyable and consistent environment for snowmobiling. A friendly competition exists between clubs and their volunteers, each vying for the unofficial title of best trails.
Sadly, the aging of our volunteers, combined with the challenge of finding replacements, leaves organized snowmobiling in the province in a somewhat perilous state. Of course, this is not true only in Quebec, or indeed in the snowmobile industry alone, as changing societal values and ever-increasing demands on people’s time mean that clubs will be challenged to find new ways to carry on.
Snowmobilers are encouraged to get involved with their local clubs. What better way to meet like-minded passionate snowmobilers than to enlist your help and contribute to the maintenance and development of a trail system that brings so much joy to so many.
Do you wish to become a club volunteer? Contact your club and offer your services.
Mindful of the challenges faced by snowmobile clubs throughout the province, the FCMQ Board elected in 2013 to set aside $1 per trail permit sold to help fund a program designed to reward volunteers and promote their impressive achievements and dedication. In 2015, the FCMQ enlisted the assistance of Kimpex to launch the Kimpex volunteer recognition program (Programme d’action bénévole Kimpex). This unique initiative is comprised of an annual fund totalling $100,000 which is drawn from among the FCMQ member clubs’ 4500 volunteers by means of 400 gift certificates valued at $250 each.