Sandilands Over the Years
by Laurie Silversides
Videos by Al Hiebert
The Sandilands Ski Club was founded in the spring of 1992 as a non-profit organization, dedicated to promoting cross country skiing. The Club’s involvement included trail maintenance and expansion in the Sandilands Provincial Forest, social events and education opportunities through Jack Rabbits Ski Program and ski instruction for adults.
In March of 1992, the ski club was established with goals of keeping trails groomed and growth in numbers through education and events. In the fall of 1992, we hoped to attract skiers to the club by holding a mall display in the fall. We provided cross country ski education for youth and families through Jackrabbits. 2 club ski events were held, as well as the Iceman Limpet, Poker Derby, and Ski wind up.
By 1993 we were responsible for grooming of the trails. Conservation had cut a new trail for us, which became known as the Black trail and a new trail map was created. In the next 3 years 5 of our club
members took the CANSI instructor program and we added ski clinics to the list of programs offered.
The signs on the trails were in poor condition so we had the SRSS router 60 wood signs which volunteers
from the Ski club painted and posted. Ken and Geralyn Reimer headed Jack Rabbits which had been
running since 1988.
1994 was marked by the purchase of a new renovator/track setter, which was built by Pete Friesen and Peter Doerksen.
Jackrabbits disbanded due to lack of public interest. The Club started grooming the Steinbach Fly in Golf course.
In 1995 with the passing of Leroy Thiessen, his wife sold his sport equipment and donated the proceeds
of the sale went to the ski club. A Leroy Thiessen Memorial Fund was created. The money from the
equipment sale and proceeds from a Leroy Thiessen Memorial Fund was enough to build the timber
frame works for a semi- permanent warming hut. The club purchased a Quad track machine hoping that
it would be an improvement over the 1996 and 1999 Alpine snow machines that Conservation had sold
the club for $1.00 when the club was established.
Jac Dikkema organized the first Classic ski event and it was a great success.
Video footage compiled from a later race, courtesy of Al Hiebert.
By the fall of 2000 every one from the executive had quit except the President Lauren Silversides. As president, she created a “Do You Want to Ski Sandilands?” poster instead of the Annual newsletter. It must have had an impact, as there was an excellent turn out at the AGM and the club started the ski season with 8 people on the executive and 4 ski
club members willing to sit on the board. Manitoba Conservation allowed the club to change the semi-permanent warming hut into a permanent structure. The ply wood walls of this structure had been stolen twice in two years, once from the hut itself and once from the storage area.
By 2001 we realized that in order to remain viable, we needed replace our old snow machines and grooming equipment. In fall of 2001 we announced at the AGM our decision to embark an enormous Special Project that would allow the Club to purchase new grooming equipment. By the spring of 2002 the Club had sold the Quad track and raised enough funds to purchase a new Yamaha VK 540 snow machine and JACA grooming equipment that would properly renovate and groom the ski trails. The equipment included a snow grabber which would bring the snow in from the edges of the trail to create enough snow to track. There was enough money left over to send groomers Tony Fast and Glenn Friesen to Thunder Bay to learn to use the new equipment.
Spring of 2003 the first of a number of Landmark feeds/ Sandilands Ski Classics was held. 95 skiers
attended deeming this event successful. Sandilands Ski Club was awarded a 6,500.00 grant from Sport
Legacy to build a storage shed which was erected in fall of 2003.
In 2005 Manitoba Conservation announced that they would no longer clear trail parking lots or road to
storage shed. Members of the Ski Club lobbied to have the parking lots cleared and later the lots were cleared by highways but the snow removal on road to the storage shed had to be contracted out.
In spring of 2006 Ken Reimer took over as coordinator of the Landmark Feeds/Sandilands Ski Classic. March 12, 2006 Equipment storage shed collapses under the weight of wet snow. Roof caves in on our Yamaha snow machine and wrecks the tunnel and wind shield deeming snow machine a MPIC write off. The Club took the money offered by MPIC and purchased the snow machine back as by back. Pete
Friesen and Al Hiebert were able to straighten the tunnel and repair machine. Hanover doors covered
cost of rebuild the storage shed this time adding extra reinforcement the building to ensure that the
building was more stable. A Ski Club website was established and Neil Theissen volunteered to provide
Sept 03, 2007 ski club purchased new Yamaha VK 540 snow machine. Between the years 1993 and 2007 Peter Doerksen had painted a number of metal diamonds the colors of the trails and they had been added to the trail system. George Remillard spray painted corrugated plastic signs in the late 90’s which we posted to replace missing signs. The Trail Head signs which had been up since long before the Ski Club took over grooming were in poor shape and needed to be replaced. Club embarked on a project to replace all signage to the trails including the 4 trail head signs. Phase one was completed in the 2007-2008 ski season. November 2007 a final agreement signed with Manitoba Conservation.
May 2008 Fire caused by ATVs at poker derby destroys 8500 acres of Sandilands forest including parts or all of 4 ski trails and one of our warming huts.
Fall 2008 Greg Penner brings the club further in the world of computer technology. A new section of green trail created. Clubs from all over lobby Government to have motorized vehicles banned on ski trails. Trails were GPSed, maps were updated.
Fall 2009 Tony Fast created two new trails to add to the system of trails. These trails are known as the Grey and Orange trails. Trail maps were revised. A new Warming hut was build to replace to hut destroyed by the fire with funding from CCSAM and Charleswood ski club. A plaque was made to recognize the volunteers for their time and money that made this project viable
A new trail is added to the Sandilands network. The Yellow Trail follows a ridgeline formed from the beaches of Lake Agassi many long days ago. A new door was built for the new warming
The Sandilands Classics was once again a big success.
Ski trails of the Steinbach Fly in golf course were GPSed and a trail map was created. Zone 4 was used for the first time for a ski classic in Sandilands. A short cut was created and groomed from parking lot on green yellow to grey trail. The new Ski Club registration system was enforced by CCSAM. A biffy was built for the new warming hut and the hut was furnished with benches. Our new warming hut was finally finished and is a cozy place for skiers to gather in the winter.
2012 was a low snow season. Events and race were cancelled. The Ski Club Executive had thought of
building a new warming hut, to celebrate 20 years since club was founded, but put this dream was put
on hold. A second fire in Sandilands Provincial Forest affects part of blue trail. Club executive entertains
the truth that to remain viable they will some year have to move the ski trails.
In fall of 2012, a 2 foot dump of wet snow broke off hundreds of jack pine in the forest. Support to remove the broken trees by our club and Charleswood Ski club was fantastic and by first grooming all trails had been cleared and were groom. The club experiences tremendous ski season. Zone 4 online registration for membership and Sandilands Classic is up and running. Kinks have been ironed out of computerized timing at the Classic.
2014 Government cut backs and closure of the Marchand Wayside Park during the winter brought forth the decision to eliminate the Sandilands Classic Event for the time being and channel our energy into establishing a Jackrabbits program. Jackrabbits, is a program that introduces younger families into skiing as a sport that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Polar Vortex entered the local lexicon as 2014 is the coldest winter since 1898. Despite the cold, 2014 was one of the longest ski seasons in years. Trails were packed in late November and grooming continued into late March.
The ski club is thrilled to enter into a win-win partnership with the Quarry Oaks Golf Course. Sandilands Ski Club agrees to groom trails at Quarry Oaks golf course in exchange for having a warm building for Jackrabbits to gather. The Ski Club purchased a 2015 Ski-Doo Skandic WT 550 snow machine.
Laurie Silversides steps down as official club president but stays on the board of directors. 2016 was a year for dreams to come true. TIDD TECH grooming equipment, which has the capacity of grooming both skate and classic trails at Quarry Oaks golf course, is purchased, made possible through generous funding from Landmark Feeds. The old warming hut built in the early 1990’s was removed in the spring and replaced by a beautiful timber frame warming hut. The hut was built at the bottom of the hill from the green parking lot. This project was made possible through contributions from Corporate Sponsors, community volunteers, including 33 students and their teachers from Steinbach Regional Secondary School Carpentry department, members from Sandilands and Charleswood Ski clubs and the hard work and vision of Clare Wiebe.
In 2017 the Ski Club celebrated their 25th Anniversary as a ski club. This milestone was acknowledged at the Sandilands Ski day. Finishing touches were made to the warming hut which included a biffy, change cubicle, firewood lean-to, and table and benches. Contributors to the warming hut projects were acknowledged with a plaque acknowledging their efforts. Weekly storms at the beginning of the season made grooming difficult but groomers went the extra mile and provided excellent trails.
In fall of 2017 cut backs in funding forced Sustainable Resources to eliminate the service of mowing the ski trails each fall in Sandilands Forest. Strong winds brought many trees down across the ski trails. Crews of volunteers from Sandilands and Charleswood Ski Clubs, worked hard to clear away dead fall and brush mow the trails, and reroute a section of trail in preparation for the ski season. Despite a low snow season the club experienced an excellent ski season (mid-December to early March) and a record number of day use skiers used the trails.
The Ski Club continued investing in equipment necessary for maintaining top quality nordic ski trails. This year saw the addition of a swisher pull behind brush mower. In years past, the Provincial Parks staff took responsibility for summer mowing of the trails. That has been discontinued, so part of the October Trail Work Day now includes giving the trails a brushcut so that there are no pokers sticking up and ruining the snow track.
Many of us will remember having a great ski season despite the lack of snow. We won’t soon forget that our world as we knew it changed greatly in mid March 2020 when the Covid 19 outbreak hit Manitoba. The online presence of the club received a refresh with a top to bottom redesign of the website. The final product represented many hours of work done by the Advanced Web Design students at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School and their instructor, who is also the club’s webmaster, Chris Duester.
The Ski Club experienced a record setting year as Covid restrictions pushed many people to the outdoors. Ski shops throughout the province were sold out of ski equipment, and Sandilands was one of the only regions around with enough snow to groom trails. The result was triple the number of skiers using our trails!
The club continued to refine the skier experience and were blessed by an anonymous team of “snow angels!” This group printed and posted new trail signage on all the trails! Additionally, there was a new addition to the black ski trail that incorporates some more hilly, forested terrain. And finally, the trailside maps received an update with individual segment distances and difficulty ratings in an attempt to help new skiers unfamiliar with our trail difficulty and distances.