Riding the Ice Roads in Alberta and NWT

Story by Emily Roberts// Photos by Greg Samborski
October 31 2023

Experiencing the far north to help the SPCA, in winter, on motorcycles?

It was all awash of grey. I could only see the periodic wispy red glow of the taillight ahead of me letting me know we were still on the road. The snowdrifts piling up on either side of the road reminded us that we may have stayed up north for too long. What once offered us brisk, clear winter air now burdened us by encapsulating us in what one could perceive as riding in a freshly shaken snow globe.

Two days before we had ridden the same road at the start of our journey. With the sun shining down on us as we made our way north on our mission to deliver over 454 kilograms of dog and cat food to a couple of rural northern villages that desperately needed it.

I still remember the day I met Mike Haberoth — he’s a good friend of mine now — but truthfully, when we first spoke at the Edmonton Motorcycle Show I thought he was seriously crazy for wanting to ride the ice roads north of Fort McMurray, Alta., in the middle of winter.

However, after completing my first ice road trip with the Ride North Moto crew in February, 2021, I couldn’t wait to do it again. At that time, we had only been able to do a day trip just outside of Fort Chipewyan, Alta., and couldn’t complete the intended trip up to the NWT. This was due to Covid; we decided collectively it wouldn’t be right adding additional stress to the remote communities during the pandemic.

We decided to do another ride in January, 2023, with friends new and old; riding we would have Mike Haberoth, Glen Miller, Brandon MacNeil and myself. And in support vehicles, we would have Billy Beauchesne, Blake Sovdi, Greg Samborski, David Stirling and Kevin Power. We would be riding a mix of bikes; I would be on my KTM 790 ADV R, while Mike and Glen would be on a KTM 500EXC and a Husqvarna 501, Brandon would be on his Honda CRF250L.

For the Furry Friends

Our goal was to travel by motorcycle from the beginning of the ice roads, which starts just an hour north of Fort McMurray, to Fort Chipewyan where we’d spend the night. Then up to Fort Smith, just inside the NWT border, and finally back down to the staging area on the third day. We were raising money and collecting food donations for the Fort McMurray SPCA and the local animal shelters in Fort Chipewyan and Fort Smith.

Because the small towns are so remote, with limited access throughout the year, the thought of supplying food for stray animals is often overlooked. Our goal was to stock the shelters in those two northern towns with enough dog and cat food for the following year.

Not only was it for a great cause, but I was riding with good friends and exploring remote areas by bike, and this trip offered the chance to pet and cuddle some adorable animals that awaited a new home.

Heading Out

The first, and undoubtedly most important step was to set up our bikes. This mainly entailed swapping the standard rubber out with studded tires, adding Hippo Hands over our bars, installing hand warmers if we wanted to, and checking our fluids. I was going without hand warmers for a second time, but instead of giving myself up to the elements I opted for eWool heated gear and trying out a set of heated socks, gloves, and a vest…

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