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Local snowmobiler rides for the cure

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P>Canadian snowmobile enthusiasts sled from Newfoundland to B.C. to raise money for breast cancer research

There are those who run for the cure for breast cancer and there are others who ride across the country on snowmobiles.

Among the latter is Whistler’s own Heather Gamache, who will be part of a three-woman team taking over the last leg of the Way Out Women Relay snowmobile trek across Canada.

"This was a good cause to do something that I like doing," said Gamache from her office at Coast Garibaldi Health Unit.

She first heard about the fundraiser last fall when Polaris Industries, who are sponsoring the event, sent out flyers to clubs around the country.

Gamache, who is a member of the Pemberton Valley Snowmobile Club and an avid snowmobiler for the past 10 years, said the event was right up her alley.

"Part of it is seeing other parts of the country as far as the snowmobiling goes and then as a fundraiser for breast cancer research it’s an awesome choice," she said.

Gamache along with two other B.C. female snowmobilers will start the final five-day stretch of the relay in Grand Prairie, Alberta on Feb. 24 and slide into Squamish on Feb. 28, marking the end of the 48-day challenge.

So far the relay, which kicked off in St. John’s, Newfoundland, has already wound its way through the Maritime provinces.

The Quebec leg begins this weekend.

"The trails have been excellent," said Gisele Remillard, ride co-ordinator with Polaris Industries who helped dream up the WOW Relay.

"There’s been plenty of snow everywhere."

The people at Polaris came up with the idea last year and Remillard said that so far it has surpassed even her highest expectations.

"We thought what better way to promote riding than to have a cross-Canada relay where women from every province can be involved," she said.

Recently Remillard said one of her co-workers has been diagnosed with breast cancer, as has the wife of another co-worker, and so the disease hits close to home at Polaris. She said the decision to give the funds to breast cancer awareness was "no contest when it came to choosing a charity."

Polaris Industries has not put a dollar figure on how much money they would like to raise for breast cancer.

"We definitely want to raise as much as possible," said Remillard.

"We want to do everything possible that we can to help research in that area."

The Alberta team will hand over the three snowmobiles to Gamache and her fellow riders in Grand Prairie.

The western leg of the relay will take five days through B.C. with stops in Prince George, Wells, Williams Lake, Gold Bridge and finally Squamish.

The biggest challenges according to Gamache will be the B.C. terrain and the weather.

"I’m going to assume that there’s not going to be any mechanical difficulties," she added.

"We have mechanical support with us but as riders we should be able to fuel and change the belts on our machines to ensure that they’re running properly."

There will also be trucks and trailers on hand to move the sleds to different locations because in B.C. snowmobiling is restricted to trails and forestry roads.

As far as the physical demands of the relay Gamache said she’s not worried about spending five consecutive days on her sled.

"As far as the actual riding part of it and getting up the next morning and going again, it’s not an issue because you’re used to it."

She’s not expecting the relay to be hard work because it’s fun, it’s supporting a good cause and there’s the chance to meet a lot of people with the same interests.

"On each leg the invitation has been given to local clubs to join in to support and ride along so it’s not like there’s going to be three women out there in the wilderness," said Gamache.

"That’s part of the way it’s set up to raise awareness, to have local support."

Remillard said the support and the response from the local communities to date has been tremendous.

In Newfoundland alone $13,000 has been raised so far.

One rider in Nova Scotia raised $7,000 on her own.

Anyone can participate in collecting pledges and for each $250 raised your name goes into a draw for a Polaris snowmobile at the end of the relay.

"We’re all snowmobile enthusiasts so this is just fantastic. It’s kind of a dream come true," said Remillard.

To donate money to the cause, contact Heather Gamache at 604-932-2278. There will be a post-ride at the Black Tusk Snowmobile Club the day after the relay ends and anyone is welcome to ride along.

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