By George Fullerton
Christian Roy’s career path to mechanized harvesting contractor business Foresterie Yeti Inc., has been a steady evolution. Roy started out tree planting as a teenager in high school, and then worked seasonally as a thinning saw operator on pre-commercial thinning operations around his home in Amos, Quebec, and then trained to become a harvester operator.
Roy continued his education, including three years studying geomatics in Gatineau, Quebec. In 2000, he completed the harvester and forwarder operator program at Commission scolaire Harricana in Amos. With his qualifications in hand, Roy became a harvester operator for Frejo Inc., which was owned by brothers Gaston and Gaétan Bérubé from Senneterre, Quebec. He operated a Rocan Enviro with serial number 001.
“These two men became a model for me and I knew right away that I would become a forestry contractor one day,” says Roy. They were working then in first thinnings for Materiaux Blanchet, on Crown lands.
The Enviro was a small harvester built in Moncton, New Brunswick, using mostly parts off the Rottne shelves. The four wheel harvester, with a small Log Max head, was purpose-built for early commercial thinning. The harvest system the Bérubé operation followed consisted of main harvest/forward trails, with two ghost trails in the strip which piled wood out to the main trails.
“Two years later, Frejo gave me the opportunity to make my dream come true—they sold me the Enviro,” says Roy. “I started my very first thinning contract for Tembec La Sarre. At the time, I also bought a Neuson 11 tonne and two Neuson 20 tonne harvesters.
“When I started my company doing pre-commercial thinning in 1999, I was really into mountain biking. I loved the Yeti bike brand and I thought forestry sounded well with Yeti—two things I loved. That’s how I ended up naming my company.”
The Yeti moniker has continued as the business turned to mechanical harvesting.
In 2011, Roy made a trip to Sweden and visited the EcoLog Factory, and selected a 560D harvester; it was the first of that model to be imported into Canada.
And in 2014, Roy responded to an invitation from Jean Trottier, owner of equipment dealer Hydromec in Dolbeau, Quebec.
“Jean invited me on a group trip to the Elmia Wood forestry show, because he knew I was looking to buy a forwarder,” Roy explained. “Later, we visited the Ponsse factory in Vierma, Finland, and I made a deal on a Buffalo HD forwarder.
“With that introduction, I became a Ponsse ‘family’ member, and I then bought a Fox, two Scorpion Kings, a Scorpion and I was the first to own an Elephant King with active frame in Canada.”
Since his initial Ponsse purchase was through Hydromec, based in the Lac St. Jean region, Trionex, based in Amos, has become a sub dealer, and has provided sales and service closer to Roy’s base.
Trionex has provided machine shop, welding, hydraulic and pneumatic services to the forestry, mining, wood processing mills and other industries throughout northwest Quebec and northeast Ontario for more than 40 years.
Roy’s current harvest team consists of two Ponsse Scorpion harvesters and one Ponsse Elephant King forwarder. One Scorpion operates double shift and the second operates a single shift, while the Elephant King works double shift to move harvester production to roadside.
Roy noted that the Scorpion provides a number of advantages compared to the Fox harvester.
“The visibility is one of the biggest advantages for operating in thinnings, but I also love the extra power, the technology and the ergonomics of the Scorpion,” he says.
“It’s hard to make a comparison on fuel consumption since the Fox has a 200 horsepower four cylinder engine, while the Scorpion has a 285 hp six cylinder engine, but I consider the Scorpion to be well out in front.”
Currently, about 80 per cent of the contracts Foresterie Yeti works are in first and second thinnings. They also do other sorts of partial cut harvesting and their work continues right through the winter with significant snow loads.
Recently, Foresterie Yeti was operating in Reserve Faunique La Verendrye, a conservation area. Their objective was a first thinning in a 35-year -old jackpine plantation, to enhance growth and increase habitat features for wildlife and other conservation values.
Wood products generated by the thinning were nearly an even split between stud wood and pulp. The stud logs were destined for the Eacom Timber sawmill in Val -d’Or.
Quebec Natural Resources personnel monitor the thinning operation, and work directly with Yeti operators and the company’s forest technician to review operating practices and the criteria for the finished job.
Dominic Latendresse works as forest technician for Foresterie Yeti. He does block layouts, including watercourse setbacks. Latendresse flags the operating trails and transfers the maps and data on stand density and other attributes to the GPS in the harvesters. Roy underlined that having the maps and stand data in the harvesters is a very important tool for the operators, allowing them to operate productively and to meet the particular silviculture goals. Latendresse follows up with Ministry staff on particulars of the completed work.
Once the harvesters have completed thinning work, the maps with the harvested trails are transferred to the forwarder, which helps guide the operators, and gets all the wood moved efficiently to roadside.
One of the unexpected highlights visiting the Foresterie Yeti operation was to get a personal tour of the service truck. The truck is certainly one of the best examples of a highly detailed, highly organized and highly efficient design.
“For 10 years I had been looking at different kinds of service trucks on the internet, mostly in Europe,” says Roy. “I took notes and pictures, then I started making my own plans. In 2015 I bought the truck, a 2009 Kenworth T800 with thirty foot insulated box. I made the interior myself, which took two months of work.”
Roy brought borrowed ideas and his experience working with a couple of service trailers in the past.
“With a well-designed service truck, you don’t lose your tools, and you don’t lose time searching for tools and parts,” he says. “Everything has its place and everyone is happy.”
The truck interior, with custom cabinets, is painted blue. Most used tools hang from peg boards, with identification for the particular tool with a yellow background shadow, which helps ensure the tool gets back to its assigned spot.
There is no excuse not to put a tool back in its place, and similarly no reason not to expect a tool is in its place when it is sought out. The automatic chain sharpener is in its own cabinet with closing door. The truck is heated by a bunk heater.
Specialty and sensitive test tools are in foam, in drawer cabinets. Hose supply and assembly is contained in a separate clean compartment.
There is a metal detector on hand to help locate dropped parts, tools, and other items, whether it is lost in snow or dirt.
If there was a competition for spiffy service trucks, Foresterie Yeti would be running with the leaders.
Foresterie Yeti takes contracts over a wide territory in the Abitibi-Temiscamingue region, and has three trailer camps for the crews to stay in through the week.
Roy built the camps on fifth wheel trailers. The forty- and thirty-four foot trailers house three operators and the twenty-foot trailer is used by Latendresse because his work schedule is unique, compared to the operators.
When operations are within one of their bases in Amos, the crew will commute from their homes. Roy estimates that for about 30 per cent of their operating season, the crew will commute from their homes.
The trailers provide satellite/internet service, as well as cellular and TV.
Roy and his wife, Claudia Duchenes, dedicate a good deal of time and effort to the community of Amos. Foresterie Yeti is a sponsor of the hockey team, the cross country club and mountain bike team. Roy helps with the mountain bike training in the summer, and the family helps organize the annual mountain bike race in Amos every year. In the winter, Roy dedicates time to the cross country ski club, doing maintenance on the groomer and helping out the operator.
Roy and Claudia, who works as a first grade teacher, also dedicate a good deal of energy to their sons’—Xavier and Jacob—mountain bike racing careers
(see sidebar story).
And he knows he can rely on his employees, whether he's on the ground in the bush, or off site in a business meeting. "I have great confidence and trust with my employees," says Roy. "While I'm away on business or family events, I know they are working productively. They are professionals, and they all work hard to meet our production and quality goals."
Logging contractor Christian Roy is a man who dedicates a good deal of passion to his family, as well as his community and his business.
One of his early passions was bicycle racing, which became ingrained in him when he was 10-years-old, when he entered his first road race. When he was eleven, he became the Quebec Peewee (road race) Champion.
When mountain bike racing became popular, Roy hung up his road bike and shifted his passion to mountain bike racing. He competed in regional mountain bike racing Quebec Cup events through college, and continued until his first son, Xavier, was born.
Racing took a hiatus as Roy and his wife, Claudia Duchenes, focused on building their home, building Foresterie Yeti and adding a second son, Jacob, to the family.
When Xavier turned seven, he began competing in the Quebec Cup. Since the family was attending sanctioned events, Roy tuned up his Yeti racer and also began competing in Quebec events. The family raced at events in Mont Tremblant, Sherbrooke, Quebec City, Baie St. Paul and St. Felicien.
Roy’s personal race career achieved a highlight in 2017, when he became the Quebec Cup Champion in the Sport Masters Class.
Second son Jacob also caught the competition bug, and was two time Quebec Cup Champion in 2016 and 2018, in his class.
In 2018, at 16, Xavier competed for the second year in the cadet class.
In addition to competing in Quebec races, the family also attended races across Canada. In July 2018, at Canmore, Alberta, Xavier won the points chase and became the Canadian Cadet Champion.
“Mountain bike racing at Xavier’s level is new here in Abitibi-Témiscamingue,” explains Roy. “Xavier is the only junior mountain bike racer here. We had to find a way to help us cover the fees for the bike, the traveling, the races, bike parts, fixing, tools and so on.
“We have come to love the branding, the colors and the philosophy of Ponsse, and we thought that Ponsse would make a great match with our family race team. Ponsse’s values are really close to our family’s values: discipline, hard work, respect and performance.
“Jean Trottier, owner of the Hydromec (Ponsse) dealership, and Antony Drapeau, an owner of the Trionex dealership, had become friends with our family through the years, and they were both very enthusiastic about supporting our team.”
The Ponsse mountain bike race team was born in the spring of 2019.
In June 2019, Xavier repeated the Canadian Championship win and it qualified him to compete in the World Junior Championship, which were held in Mount Ste. Anne, Quebec, this past summer, on August 29th—on Christian’s birthday.
“That’s the best gift a bike-dad could expect,” says Roy, with great pride.
On the Cover:
Alberta forest company Millar Western recently invested in a new Andritz 35-tonne overhead portal crane for the log yard at their sawmill in Whitecourt, and some $10 million into completely modernizing the Whitecourt planer mill. Investments have also been made in the Whitecourt sawmill’s primary breakdown line. Read all about the upgrade beginning on page 18 of this issue (Cover shot by Tony Kryzanowski).
Biofuel projects planned for Alberta—and maybe Newfoundland
British biofuel company AEG has switched its focus to Western Canada and the U.S., but it is still interested in a biofuel plant for Newfoundland.
From farming to forestry…
The Lusted Family started out in farming, but made the transition to logging back in 1995, and has grown significantly since then—these days it has upwards of 20 pieces of equipment to do harvesting work in B.C.’s southern interior.
Millar Western starts its second century...with mill upgrades
Millar Western recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and the Alberta forest products company has started its second century in business with a capital expenditures bang—by investing $36 million in its operations.
Logging contractor Ian Kerr is working with smaller Canadian and European logging equipment to thin the forests of B.C.’s West Kootenays region, leaving a light footprint—and achieving better wood utilization.
Canada’s Top Lumber Producers!
Logging and Sawmilling Journal’s annual ranking of Canada’s Top Lumber Producers, and industry outlook, co-ordinated with top ranked industry consultants Forest Economic Advisors (FEA).
Christian Roy followed a steady path toward becoming a mechanized logging contractor, with his equipment evolving—his highly efficient harvest team now consists of two Ponsse Scorpion harvesters and a Ponsse Elephant King forwarder.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from Alberta Innovates, Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) and FPInnovations.
The Last Word
Canada has won the interim softwood lumber tariff fight, but a long term trade reset is needed, says Tony Kryzanowski.