Dale Gunderson, The Trailblazer

Dale was involved in snowmobiling most of his life. He bought his first Snowmobile - a 1967 Nordic Ski-doo, when he was 19 years old. Dale and his wife Elaine used to go out on dates on his sled, going for rides at night and on week-ends. Since his first sled, he had ridden numerous brands.

Dale began racing Snowmobiles in 1969 on the NWSA Ice Oval Circuit and raced for 10 years.  He was very involved on the the Executive and organizing of the NWSA.  In 1972, Dale won the Alberta Championship the night his son was born. Once the racing ended for Dale, he continued to ride Polaris machines for enjoyment and Whitecourt Traiblazers Snowmobile Club volunteer work.  Dale was always willing to lend a helping hand, flagman, corner judge, and winner’s circle inspector. He developed lifelong friendships through racing and his leadership and volunteerism were respected throughout the organization.  Through his contacts in racing and snowmobiling in Alberta, Dale became a “testing agent” for a Snowmobile Manufacturer (Polaris) and various aftermarket snowmobile performance products.

Dale would log 4000 – 5000 kms each year on his various snowmobiles.  He loved to ride in the Whitecourt Area. He’d travel to Yellowstone, Montana for one week each year with his sons, the General, his friends, and the boys from Rocky Mountain Tours. Dale also traveled with Rocky Mountain Tours to Revelstoke each year in November and March. Dale became a fixture on these tours and it was just expected that he’d be coming along.   They later called it the Dale Gunderson Memorial Tour.

Dale was an active member of the Whitecourt Trailblazers Snowmobile Club for 22 years (since 1985). During his time with the Trailblazers, Dale held a number of executive functions including; President, Special Projects, Trailboss, and Director.

As Trailboss, Dale would organize to have the trails cleaned of fallen trees and underbrush each fall. Dale would split volunteers into groups of 5 – 8 guys and create routes for all of them to travel and clean trails. He’d also work with Alex to organize that vehicles could be moved to various locations on the trail system so volunteers didn’t have to “back-track”. This proved to save hours of non-productive travel for the volunteer trail cleaners.  The first few weekends of November each year were always reserved for Trail Cleaning, and Dale found a way to make this work fun for everyone. Once the trail system was completely cleaned by the Club volunteers, Dale would head out with his buddy Alex Manweiler and check to make sure everything was OK. They’d end up do a little more trimming and cleaning. Dale referred to that work as “giving the trails a little tune-up”.

Since the inception of the Club and the development of the trail system, the Club has developed several series of Maps for sledders. Dale was involved in the development of those maps. He was usually spearheading the map creation, as he knew the trail system better than anyone.   Dale also managed the Eagle River Group Camping area maintenance for over 20 years.

Dale became involved with the ASA in 1985. He attended ASA Functions regularly from 1985 to 2007, such as AGMs, Jamboree’s, Award Banquets, etc… He provided positive input to help improve the safety and organized snowmobiling in general in Alberta. Dale always had a positive attitude towards the ASA and organized snowmobiling.

Dale also owned and ran the Rupp Center in Whitecourt and sold and serviced snowmobiles in 1970 with a friend. Dale’s reputation as a skillful mechanic, trouble-shooter, and performance optimizer were second to none. Until his untimely death in January 2007, Dale was still providing snowmobile mechanic services to several friends and family.

On Dale’s first snowmobile trip to Yellowstone in the late 1980’s, Dale observed how the trails in the Yellowstone area were marked and mapped. He noticed what the snowmobile community had done in Yellowstone to make it possible to provide “safe & organized snowmobiling” for as many as 3000 snowmobilers in one day. Dale also identified things that could be improved. He then brought those ideas home to put into action on the ASA trails in the Whitecourt area. Many of Dale’s observations and ideas regarding trail signage are still in place today and have also been adopted by other clubs in Alberta.

In 1984, Dale & others from the Whitecourt Trailblazers assisted the community of Mayerthorpe to try to set a snowmobile club in their community. They attended meetings and offered advice. The Mayerthorpe Club never did reach success, but Dale’s advice was very much appreciated.  In 1987, Dale & others from the Whitecourt Trailblazers assisted the community of Westlock to set up a snowmobile club in their community. Dale was recognized for his contributions to that club at their 2007 ASA Jamboree.

In the late 1980’s the concept of the Golden Triangle and a snowmobile trail link between the communities of Fox Creek, Swan Hills, and Whitecourt began to take shape. Again, Dale Gunderson was involved in this process. He was involved in scouting and signage for the Golden Triangle that then became part of the TransCanada Trail System.

Dale was an avid and skilled rider. He may have logged as much as 185,000 kms of recreational snowmobiling riding over a 41-year history on 29 different snowmobiles owned. He rode throughout Alberta and BC, went to Yellowstone Montana each year, and had ridden in Quebec on one of the Rocky Mountain Tours in the early 1990’s.

The Trailblazers hosted the 2000 ASA Jamboree and Dale was one of the Club leaders that was instrumental in making it a success.

Dale was involved with grooming operations in Whitecourt since 2003. He was one of the Club’s main groomer operators until his untimely death. Dale was also instrumental in the acquisition of grooming equipment for Whitecourt Trailblazers Snowmobile Club in 2003.

In 2004, Dale was awarded the ASA Excellence Award for Outstanding Snowmobiler.

Dale passed away on January 14, 2007 at age 60. At the time of this death, he was out with a few friends and his two sons. They were surveying the trail system near Whitecourt and removing fallen trees. A wind storm had fallen a number of trees throughout the trail system and Dale was concerned for the safety of fellow riders. There was also an upcoming snowmobile rally in February 2007 and Dale wanted to ensure that trails would be safe for all. He passed away doing volunteer work for the Whitecourt Trailblazers Snowmobile Club and the ASA with his two sons at his side.

If it had to do with snowmobiling, Dale Gunderson, had already done it before most others had even thought of it.  He was very concerned about the “image” of the sport and would lend some advice in this regard to both new and younger sledders he ran across. He was an advocate of safe riding and did not tolerate drinking while sledding. A few drinks were reserved however for the “after sledding meeting” at the pumphouse.

One of Dale’s favorite sayings was “it only costs a little bit more to go first class”, and first class was what Dale Gunderson was all about. If it was worth doing, it was worth doing right, and you could see it very clearly in everything he did.

Whitecourt Trailblazers Snowmobile Club executive members estimate that Dale Gunderson volunteered more than 30,000 hours during his 38-year involvement in snowmobile clubs in Whitecourt, the ASA and the NWSA. Dale held every executive position in the Whitecourt Trailblazers Snowmobile Club at one time or another, from President to Director and everything in between. He will be remembered mostly as the “trailboss” of the local Trailblazers.

Dale was a father figure to many younger Club members. He was always available to provide helpful hints and advise on riding and sled performance. He was the first person many in the Club would call when their sled wasn’t working just right, and Dale usually had the answer. If Dale couldn’t fix a sled, it probably couldn’t be fixed by anyone else either.

Dale, Elaine, Kelly and Jason grew up snowmobiling.  The family was always volunteering for the club and they are still involved.  Elaine and Dale both were also involved in the community and recognized and awarded for their efforts with the Kinsmen, Golf Course,  Repeat Boutique and many other efforts.  Dale has been truly missed and we will never forget GUNDY.  A memorial area and cabin was developed in his name on our trail system.   Thank you to the Gundersons!!


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