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Trail groomer captures award (5/02)

By Leslie Sanders Ebert Welding is responsible for revolutionizing trail-grooming systems by converting New Holland farm tractors into snowmobile trail groomers from their shop in New Liskeard.

By Leslie Sanders

Ebert Welding is responsible for revolutionizing trail-grooming systems by converting New Holland farm tractors into snowmobile trail groomers from their shop in New Liskeard.

Ebert Welding has been a New Holland tractor dealership and construction company since 1946. The company received the Regional Award in the Innovation Award category, as well as an Award of Merit Market Expansion Award for Product, at the 2002 Global Traders Awards, held in North Bay on April 11.

The company is one of Ontario’s longest standing Canadian Welding Bureau certified welding and fabricating shops.

In the early 1990s the Ontario government started to place funding into the snowmobile tourism market and from there came the need for better trails and services for tourists coming into the area.

“We started to play with the idea of the conversion (of tractors) in the winter months because our other two areas of business always died off during the season,” Ian Auger, manager of farm and grooming equipment at Ebert Welding, says.

A grooming system based out of Quebec spawned the idea for the groomer and approached Ebert Welding to build it, knowing Ebert Welding was a New Holland dealership.

“They had the patent, but we had the materials and talent to build the concept,” Auger says. “We liked the idea so much we bought that patent and tweaked it until it was right.”

Officials at the New Holland headquarters did not agree with the idea at first, and refused to get onboard with the groomer idea, and to this day will not recognize the groomers under a different warranty or preference as the New Holland original tractor it was built from, says Auger.

“They look at the groomers as OEM products, so anything we do is subject to their warranty,” Auger explains. “So we came up with our own warranty. We step in with our warranty, if or when New Holland refuses.

New Holland tractors are very tough, Auger says. The engines are powerful and have major torque response, and since a tractor is built for pulling and made to withstand rugged abuse, it made sense to develop a groomer from a tractor, Auger explains.

In the past four years Ebert Welding has seen its sales increase 100 per cent. Last season alone they sold 34 groomer kits.

“I’m so proud of our product,” Auger says. “We don’t have to boast about our machines to potential clients at tradeshows, because it seems that present and past clients that are within earshot do if for us.”

The groomers are tough and last a long time, but no one knows how long yet because every groomer that has been sold since 1990 is still running and being used by snowmobile clubs.

“We always work very closely with our clients because we are a smaller company,” Auger says. “The pride factor is always there; we always want to strive to give clients the best service we are capable of.”

Ebert Welding offers buyers complete training sessions for their operators.

“We also check on clients personally throughout the season to make sure things are running smoothly,” he says.

Ebert Welding has plans to expand, not only their shop and staff, but also their customer service goals as well.

“We plan to put a service truck on the road all winter long,” Auger says. “We’re going to carry a full range of the specialty tools and parts needed to maintain the groomers. After checking the machinery we will provide the client with a checklist of problems that are current and some that may arise in the future.”

As long as our groomers are maintained properly they can be sold to groups looking to buy a used one.

Buyers who purchase used equipment still get the same service as the clients who bought a groomer new.

“We go full blast; we don’t hold anything back because we are proud of the equipment we have built and the services we provide.”

Ebert Welding sold their first groomer to the Spanish Snowmobile Club in 1990 and have since sold 170 more to snowmobile clubs around the continent.