International Groomer of the Year Award
Sponsored by Arrowhead Groomers, Track Inc., Pisten Bully & Prinoth LTD
The International Groomer of the Year is an annual award developed by the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame in cooperation with Arrowhead Groomers, Track Inc., Pisten Bully and Prinoth LTD to give credit to a groomer operator who has put so much time, energy and devotion to providing smooth snowmobile trails for the rest of us enjoy. Congratulations to all groomer award recipients.
Know someone to be recognized by ISHOF for International Groomer of the Year in the future? Nominate them here.
Know someone to be recognized by ISHOF for International Groomer of the Year in the future? Nominate them here.
George Bratrude - 2023 Award
George Bratrude started his snow grooming career in 1982 at the Hogadon Ski area on Casper Mountain in central Wyoming. Then in 1988, he moved to western Wyoming to groom ski slopes at Snow King Resort in Jackson, Wyoming for the next 13 years. While living in Alpine, George became intrigued with the thought of grooming snowmobile trails on the Wyoming Range Snowmobile Trail System which begins in Alpine. An opportunity eventually opened in 2000 for George to do some part time trail grooming which he did after his full-time shifts at Snow King. This double shift grooming went on until 2013 when George finally began grooming snowmobile trails full-time exclusively in the Alpine area. It wasn’t long before George became very comfortable grooming snowmobile trails and got extremely good at it. He began providing high quality trail grooming in some incredibly challenging terrain known for avalanche paths that frequently require dozing. There are portions of George’s trail section that are extremely technical which include a variety of narrow heavily wooded paths that traverse numerous ridge tops as well as very steep terrain. George is a dedicated and skilled groomer operator who works tirelessly every night, to take a heavily moguled trail and create beautiful silky white ribbon for snowmobilers daily. George literally grooms every night, seven nights a week, starting in December, all winter long. Dedication, talented and extreme commitment to trail grooming - that’s George Bratrude and that makes him the 2023 International Snowmobile Groomer of the Year.
Bob Keller - 2022 Award
Over the past two decades Bob has volunteered countless hours grooming the 150+ miles of trails in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument located in Deschutes National Forest in Oregon. Bob has worked closely with the park service establishing and managing the snowmobile trail system in and around the Newberry Crater. Bob schedules, grooms, manages and maintains a grooming program that ensures his trails are free from hazards and always freshly groomed for club rides and key community events. Bob’s track record of safety and readiness has been unmatched over the years and has resulted in a trail riding experience that thousands of snowmobile riders enjoy every winter. Bob always makes a point to spend ample time with his groomer operators to provide positive feedback. He and his team keep the trails in outstanding condition throughout the winter season. It has been this way consistently for close to two decades. His humble expertise and outstanding people skills have resulted in numerous groomer operators being trained on various grooming equipment. Bob’s ability to instruct while building driver confidence is among his best attributes. Bob and his team are always willing to do whatever it takes to keep the trails in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument ready for snowmobilers’ riding pleasure seven days a week. It is this unwavering dedication that makes Bob Keller an excellent choice for the 2022 International Snowmobile Groomer of the Year Award.
Don Matheson - 2021 Award
Bruce Mines, Ontario
Bruce Mines, Ontario
Don has been a member of the Bruce Mines Sno Glyders for over 40 years. He has been a groomer operator for the club for 25 years, the last 15 he has been Head Groomer Operator. Don has also served on the club’s Trails and Signage Committees. For Don it’s not just about running the groomer. He is directly involved in training the novice groomer operators. Don is the chief equipment repair and maintenance person. Don spends countless hours working on the trails to keep them in top shape - from brushing, tree removal, building new trails, bridge repair and constantly looking to make sure of proper signage. In addition to his grooming and trail responsibilities, Don actively participates in every club fundraising event. Don and his wife host the club’s annual volunteer appreciation event at their home. Don is present at every club meeting and is a participant in the club’s rescue team. Don is a volunteer. He has never accepted any compensation; instead the funds are donated back to the club. Over 40 years of this kind of tireless dedication has earned Don Matheson the 2021 International Groomer of the Year Award.
Don Wild - 2020 Award
Don Wild started grooming snowmobile trails in 1968 when the Antigo Sno-Drifters club was formed. Back then he did it with only a snowmobile and built a homemade drag with parts and pieces of old farm machinery. Today Don still grooms at least 3 days a week on some of the most modern commercially made grooming units you will find anywhere. Don is an excellent mechanic on heavy equipment and keeps the club’s groomers and drags in top condition. Don has been Trail Boss for the Antigo Sno-Drifters 40+ years and running. He coordinates with the groomer operators as to when and where to groom as snow conditions warrant. Don has developed several grooming techniques, one his club calls “Snow Management” a unique way for holding snow in open areas which helps establish a solid deep base in the “flats” where grooming is often difficult. Don puts in countless hours so snowmobilers can have a fun, safe and memorable ride. Over 50 volunteer years of grooming snowmobile trails makes Don Wild a very worthy choice for International Groomer of the Year.
Steve Wolfe - 2019 Award
Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin
Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin
Steve Wolfe caught the grooming bug early when he used a bed spring to groom trails in Chaseburg, WI back in 1977. That passion continues today but now he is in charge of 30 volunteer groomer drivers and supervises 90+ miles of trails. Steve moved to Arbor Vitae and soon became Trail Boss for the Cross Country Cruisers Snowmobile Club. He also trains, schedules and does the necessary paperwork needed to administrate the state funded trail system for two counties. Not one to pass off the long nights in a groomer, Steve also takes three shifts each week to keep in touch with the process. He was also a Safety Instructor with 20+ years of experience. When not grooming, Steve works with landowners, stakeholders, county and state officials to improve the grooming program and fine tune its functions. Steve Wolfe is a great ambassador for the sport of snowmobiling and has now earned the title of International Groomer of the Year.
Tim Haberberger - 2018 Award
With 20 years of experience, Tim Haberberger of Alpine, Wyoming has mastered the art of grooming the challenging varied terrain of Western Wyoming's trail systems. With conditions that range from wind swept flats to steep mountainous grades, Tim and his three Tucker Sno-Cats are up for the challenge. His grooming totals over 2800 miles a year based out of his family owned and operated Box Y Lodge that is so remote that supplies can only be brought in by snowmobile or Sno-Cat during the winter months. Tim has developed several grooming manuals for others to learn from. Even with all his knowledge and experience, Tim still attends grooming seminars. Rated as one of the best all-time groomer operators, Tim is a master groomer that never quits learning and improving. That is a mark of excellence and has earned him the honor of being awarded the 2018 International Groomer of the Year.
Bill Spicer - 2017 Award
While a snowmobiler since 1972, Bill was too busy teaching Vo-Ag to get involved with his club's activities but, after his retirement in 1996, he soon became immersed in his new passion of trail grooming for the Northwest Colorado Snowmobile Club. And he has certainly made up for lost time since then. As a certified welder and top notch mechanic, these skills have served him well in maintaining and operating the groomers and groomer program. At 82 years young, and while most people that age are relaxing, Bill is still very active in snowmobiling, club activities, club Board of Directors since 1995, volunteering for many club and local civic events and training new groomer operators. Perhaps his most endearing trait is that he is always making himself available for local and club events, helping out wherever needed. Bill adjusts his personal schedule to fit the needs of the grooming program's schedule. For his 20+ years of dedicated grooming efforts, Bill Spicer is now being awarded the 2017 International Groomer of the Year.
Robbie Hermanson - 2016 Award
West Yellowstone, Montana
Born and raised in West Yellowstone, Montana, Robbie grew up playing in the snow that dominates winters there in the mountains. With a natural and artistic ability to work with snow, Robbie soon became the "go-to" person when it came to creating the area's snowmobile trail system. For over 20 years, his exemplary work ethic, service on the Trail Grooming Committee, mechanic, groomer driver, instructor, supervisor, relief driver, search & rescue and event designer have earned him national acclaim. Each year he volunteers hundreds of hours to the grooming program in West Yellowstone and the surrounding area. A local business owner, Robbie is now the 2016 International Groomer of the Year awarded to him by the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame.
Jim Johnson - 2015 Award
Jim Johnson of Westfield, Wisconsin has been named the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame "Groomer of the Year" for 2015. Jim started grooming trails with a bedspring pulled behind his snowmobile back in 1968 for his club, the Westfield Whitetrackers. Soon they upgraded to bigger and bigger units, each change orchestrated under Jim's leadership. All the grooming equipment is stored at Jim's farm including trail maintenance and signing equipment. He also led the movement to obtain a six passenger Track Truck for trail work and to transport senior members who could no longer trail ride. Jim's other passions are antique sleds and representing Marquette County as a rep in the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC) for over 28 years, he is the Wisconsin Director for the Antique Snowmobile Club of America (ASCOA), currently owns 40+ old sleds and has chaired numerous snowmobile programs for each group for over 45 years. Add 30+ years as Fire Chief for the local Fire Department and that truly speaks for Jim Johnson's dedication.
Chris Willey - 2014 Award
Chris has served his local club, county and state in numerous officer positions with emphasis on trail grooming. He developed and is the head of the Groomer Operator Training Program for the state of Iowa. He earned the honor of being named Groomer of the Year for the State of Iowa in 2012. On the state level, Chris created an educational program for new groomer operators and a recertification program for experienced operators. He has trained and now oversees a team of eight (8) groomer operator trainers across the state, maintains the database of certified operators statewide and works with the Iowa DNR to manage every aspect of the State Groomer Operator Program. Chris has perfected the art of snow grooming and shared his skill with hundreds of others. He dedicates his time and skills to his passion for the sport of snowmobiling and grooming.
Stanley Wolf - 2013 Award
Stanley has been a devoted club member and volunteer for 40 years. During this time he has served in numerous offices of his local club, the Iowa State Snowmobile Association (ISSA) and as developer of the Five Star Snow Trails Association. Stanley coordinates grooming operations of the Five Star Snow Trails Association and heads up the groomer maintenance program for the groups groomers. In 2010, Stanley was awarded the Iowa State Snowmobiler Association Groomer of the Year award.
Jerry Emery - 2012 Award
Building his own groomer, Jerry started his grooming career back in 1976. After 35 years of planning, building and developing the trails around Mille Lacs, Minnesota, the club now has 130 miles of trails, 90% of which were "Jerry built". For Jerry, grooming is a year round passion that he is dedicated to.
Wayne Aune - 2011 Award
Fairdale, North Dakota
Nominated by the North Dakota Snowmobile Association
Ron Benson - 2011 Award
Nominated by the Colorado Snowmobile Association
Gary Hilgendorf - 2011 Award
Nominated by the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs
David Carmichael - 2009 Award
David Carmichael has been involved in all working posts of the Iowa State Snowmobile Association (ISSA), holding office positions including President, Vice President, Treasurer, Board of Directors, member and many important committee assignments. He has always paid serious attention to the trail system and operations which included all aspects of grooming and equipment. The implementation of maintenance and procurement of the right equipment fit right in with David's background which included many years with John Deere, his employer. It's been over seventeen (17) years of building the groomer program to what it is today in Iowa. Leading by example has brought many young people into the snowmobile program, teaching others to respect landowners, the environment, wildlife and snowmobile rules and regulations. David has received many awards for his overall snowmobile contributions which include his induction into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 2005. Since his induction, he has continued to focus on the snowmobile trail system, grooming equipment and grooming operations. David continues to take the steps needed to make sure snowmobiling is carried on for future generations to enjoy.
Harold A. Butschke - 2008 Award
Harold has worn many hats in his long time career in Wisconsin with the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC), County alliances and individual clubs. He has been a groomer instructor to first time operators and has shared his expertise in maintaining the grooming units they drive. Harold has over 25 years experience in grooming trails and many more years in the development of his local trail system. Some of the newest members of his team have dubbed him "Father Tucker." He has been a snowmobile safety instructor for many years for both the Club and County and a long time Membership Chairman for the AWSC, all of which have continued to keep him in the loop with young and older members alike.
Frank Ellis - 2007 Award
Frank was nominated by the Oregon State Snowmobile Association (OSSA) along with his clubs, the Moon Country Sno-mobiles, the Sisters Sno-Go-Fers, and the La Pine Lodgepole Dodgers, of which Frank and his wife Mary Ann are charter members. Much has changed in the last 37 years that Frank has been grooming trails. He started out with a snowmobile pulling a large tire then to a bedspring to form a trail. Through those early years, Frank progressed to trying out all kinds of equipment to groom trails. The one thing that hasn't changed over the years is that he is still a volunteer and grooming several times a week. Frank has mapped, cleared and marked most of the 1000 miles of trails in the central Oregon area. He was involved in the formation of the OSSA in 1972 and has held many offices including being the President from 1981-1983. He was a leader in the formation of the Oregon's grooming program allowing registration fees and gas tax revenue to be dedicated funds for maintaining and grooming snowmobile trails. This program continues today and is administrated by OSSA. When not grooming, Frank is busy helping out the clubs and assisting where he can, however his first choice would be in the cab of the Bombardier - BR250 groomer doing what he loves so much to do; Grooming and maintaining snowmobile trails.
Ross Garrett - 2006 Award
Burk's Falls, Ontario CANADA
Ross entered the work of snowmobiling in 1969 and has been dedicated to the sport since then. He is a member of the Magnetawan Ridge Runner Snowmobile Club, part of the Parry Sound Snowmobile District in Northern Ontario. A master trail groomer is only part of what he has one and is doing, having built two groomers from directions he received from a U.S. club. In 1989, Ross decided to build a snowmobile trail from the Sundridge Trail to Horn Lake so residents there could connect to the trail system. Trying to find the best route, friends bought him an airplane ride for his 65th birthday. He used that ride to take aerial photos to map out the new trail and "Trail 708" was born. All year long, Ross and his helper packed, brushed and fine tuned the trail to perfection. Ross helps out the club in many other ways such as selling trail permits and making sure trails are properly signed and smooth so friends, members and visitors have access to the Province-wide trail system.
William Dudgeon - 2005 Award
Bill Dudgeon is the primary groomer and current President of the Hardwood Trailblazers Snowmobile Club. He is responsible for grooming 42 miles of snowmobile trails while grooming another 50 mile section of trail for the neighboring Nay Tan Waush Night Riders Club. Bill has attended state "Trails and Signs" and "Recreation Design & Trail Construction" schools on his own time and at his own expense. He then organized club members to double the trail signage to increase rider safety and visitor direction. The grooming training he instructed for other volunteers has brought others to help with trail grooming and maintenance. This has given Bill some time to devote his energy to help teach youth snowmobile safety classes and trail guide for local resorts. Bill's work with the club to foster respect for landowners who give permission to the clubs to route their trails through their land has taught others how important these people are to snowmobiling, and to respect them and the natural resources they provide. Leading by example, Bill has groomed selflessly working not only for the clubs, but for all snowmobilers. He has been called a "Groomers' Groomer Operator" by other operators.
Joe Tonso - 2004 Award
A charter member of the Northwest Colorado Snowmobile Club, Joe has served as Grooming Chairman since 1988. He was appointed Grooming Chairman of the Colorado Snowmobile Association (CSA) in 1990 and continues in that position today. As chairman of the grooming program, Joe has developed a funding allocation formula which makes for equitable distribution of funds. This formula has been accepted by the state and snowmobile clubs. Adopted by the State Legislature, funding comes from the machine registration fee in Colorado. It is administered by the state parks and recreation program who disperses the funds to the clubs that groom trails. Joe has also established a training program for groomer operators. It not only teaches operational techniques, but also the maintenance and mechanics of the equipment. Since the majority of operators are volunteers, the program has been very beneficial. Joe Tonso and his wife Jenn are avid snowmobilers, hosting many state functions and serving on various committees in CSA and as Club officers. They were recognized as Colorado's Snowmobile Family of the Year in 2003. A 28-year member of the Moffat County Search and Rescue team has given Joe the opportunity to work with local, state and federal entities to promote the values of snowmobiling.
Francis Pelkey - 2003 Award
A member of the Greenway Snowmobile Club since 1968, Francis designed and built the clubs' first 144 miles of snowmobile trails which may have been the first Grand-In-Aid Trail System in Minnesota. He then went out to be trail boss, groomer trainer, bridge construction crew chief, maintenance manager as well as being involved and coordinator of March of Dimes and MS Charity Rides. Arranging for rides for developmentally disabled riders and training people for Youth Safety Certificate Snowmobile Classes are among some of his special projects. Involved locally with the snowmobile club and with the Itasca County Alliance, MnUSA functions, meetings and seminars keep his schedule full.
Curly Crosson - 2002 Award
Brackendaje, British Columbia CANADA
Curly Crosson first received national recognition as being chosen the Groomer Operator of the Year for the Western Chapter of the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) in addition to this 2002 award. At 81 years old (as of 2002), Curly is the Black Tusk Snowmobile Club's (BTSC) oldest member since it was formed over 30 years ago and has now been given a lifetime membership for his profound contributions to the BTSC. Other nominees for this prestigious 2002 award were: Vernon Robichand from Maine (representing the Eastern Chapter of ACSA) and John Arnold from Minnesota (representing the Mid-Western Chapter).
William Wanta, Sr. - 2001 Award
Bill Wanta received national recognition at the International Snowmobile Congress in Nashua, NH and is recognized as the International award recipient. Bill was a founding member of the Shanty-Town Snowmobile Club in 1968 which gave him the opportunity to plan and lay out 50 miles of trails, that the club maintains, much of which he still grooms 33 years later. He is assisted by his wife Elise, who is an avid club member and officer. Club groomer operators include two sons, which he personally trained and instructed. Building his own drags, maintaining the groomers, supervising and doing all trail maintenance, has rubbed off on club members and gained the club such pride and responsibilities in having the finest trails in the county and attracts snowmobilers to their trails. Anyone from the club that is around "Uncle Bill Wanta" takes their work seriously in what they do for the club and for the sport of snowmobiling.
Ken Race - 2000 Award
Ken Race received national recognition at the International Snowmobile Congress in Reno, Nevada. He has been selected from three (3) groomer operators that received the national award to be honored and recognized as the International recipient. Ken Race is the first Wisconsin groomer operator to receive any National recognition and now to receive this second award is unbelievable to him. He has been a groomer operator for the Arbor Vitae Woodruff Cross Country Cruisers for more than 20 years. The 400 member club has three groomers, two Tuckers and one John Deere, while he snowmobiles only about 100 miles a year, he grooms over 1500 miles of trails each Winter in Vilas and Oneida Counties. He takes his work seriously knowing that having the best snowmobile trails keeps Winter visitors coming to the area.