Alexandria residents Earl and Sonya Anderson have been named the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Volunteer Snowmobile Instructors of the Year for 2021.

While the award typically goes to one person, the Andersons have worked together for years to certify nearly 6,500 students in snowmobile safety.

The Andersons, who are longtime members of the local Douglas Area Trails Association, host a snowmobile safety class every year. In years when there’s a lack of snowfall, they put wheels on snowmobiles to ensure students can achieve certification. No matter what the scenario, the Andersons figure out a way to ensure every student has what they need for a lifetime of safe and fun snowmobile riding.

“Earl and Sonya are exactly the type of volunteer instructors you want in your community,” said DNR Conservation Officer Mitch Lawler, who is stationed in Alexandria and works closely with the Andersons. “They exemplify what it means to be a volunteer instructor, and they go above and beyond to ensure that every single student who attends their class gets the instruction they need to be safe snowmobile riders.”

The Andersons work well together and each occupy different but important roles in teaching the next generation of snowmobile riders. Sonya generally leads the classes, while Earl ensures all the equipment is ready and students have exactly what they need to successfully complete the class. In addition to snowmobile safety, both are involved in a number of other community organizations that help people of all ages enjoy the outdoors.

Earl and Sonya are among the more than 1,000 volunteer instructors who teach DNR snowmobile safety classes across the state and are the backbone of the program. Minnesota residents born after Dec. 31, 1976 are required to have a snowmobile safety certificate in order to ride, but DNR safety officials recommend all people who ride a snowmobile complete a safety training course.