In 2007, the TV show “Ice Road Truckers” premiered, introducing the viewing public to a thrilling region of the North American continent. What wasn’t shown was Ronald Schmidt—the 2000 CFR Champion Heeler and father of 2013 Champion CFR Header and NFR qualifier Kolton—and his Snowcat T.R.A.S.H. company literally making the road passable for 18-wheelers traveling from Yellowknife, Canada, to remote diamond mines in the Northwest Territories, across what are generally swamps and lakes in the unfrozen months.
“What we do is go into swamp and marshlands in northern Alberta and Canada,” Schmidt explained. “We go in on existing cut lines through the swamps, meaning we don’t knock trees down—we just take the snow off the swamp and let it freeze. These snow cats have low distribution and wide tracks, so we can walk on these swamps better than a dozer can.”
The TV show changed locations, but Schmidt and his snowcats are there with each seasonal freeze, doing all they can to ensure another safe season.
“You do deal with a lot of people in the oil patch and sometimes they get a little carried away with safety programs,” said soon-to-be 58-year-old Schmidt. “Well, you listen to the safety meetings where we go. You don’t listen, you die. It’s that simple. You need to pay attention to where you need to go.”
Schmidt has had to pull some cats and operators out of the water after they were given the go-ahead to cross ice that turned out to be too thin (an amphibious vehicle is first deployed across the ice to get a read on its thickness), but has successfully avoided having to share any harrowing and tragic tales.
“It’s an interesting job, but no job is worth dying over and we haven’t had anything close to that.”
Another perk of the job, according to Schmidt, who hails from Barrhead, Alberta, is that, despite it being winter-specific, it still allows him time to head south to Phoenix each winter to rope with his kids.
“Kolton roped with me for a while, then, my girl, Taylor, who’s in college, I got to rope with her for the last five years. I’ve got one more left, Levi. He’s 15, and hopefully I get to rope with him a little bit before he’ll skin my [butt], too. But, that’s just part of being a parent.”
The elder Schmidt takes great pride in that each of his kids have acquired roping accolades aplenty, and holds a few of his own accomplishments close at heart.
“The first year they had [team roping at] the CFR, we won it, me and Troy Fischer. Then the year after, we came pretty close, but we were lucky enough to win the title at the very first one, so it was kind of an honor. And I got to represent Canada in 2002 at the Salt Lake City Olympics, so that was quite an honor for me. So, I made the finals in 2000 and 2001 and Salt Lake was in February of ’02. They let me go and it was kind of nice.”
These days, Schmidt continues to host his T.R.A.S.H. ropings both in Barrhead and in Arizona, which began as Team Roping At the Schmidt House in 1994, and has gone on to include Trucks, T-Bones, Trophies and more.
“We give a truck away every year here and we do it in Phoenix, as well. It’s kind of unique. The fees are laughs. They’re $40 fees, but our goal is make a great pay-out and we give a truck away equivalent to the value of a saddle. So we go around and find some beater that’s still running and that’s the prize! There’s only one rule at my place: If you win the truck, you gotta take it outta my yard.”