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Winter’s here, but snowmobilers want more of the white stuff

Local snowmobiler Jeff Gruneberg says they can still hope for a six-week sledding season this year if we get six to eight inches of heavy snow. Right now, all trails in Woolwich are closed. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

Sub-zero temperatures seem to be here to stay, now all we need is a good dumping of fresh snow. At least, that’s what local snowmobilers are hoping for.

Local snowmobiler Jeff Gruneberg says they can still hope for a six-week sledding season this year if we get six to eight inches of heavy snow. Right now, all trails in Woolwich are closed.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Local snowmobiler Jeff Gruneberg says they can still hope for a six-week sledding season this year if we get six to eight inches of heavy snow. Right now, all trails in Woolwich are closed. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Jeff Gruneberg says members of the Elmira Snowmobile Club are eagerly awaiting enough of the white stuff, since all of the Woolwich trails are closed to snowmobilers right now, showing dirt and grass sticking up in places.

“As of Sunday we were supposed to be getting lots of snow this week, so it’s always on to the next week,” Gruneberg said. “And yes there’s some snow in the forecast for next week. So hopefully we get enough on there to get opened up around here.”

Last year was an exceptionally good season for snowmobilers in Woolwich, but that was the exception he said.

“This time last year we’d been open around here between two to three weeks. It was very shortly after New Years,” he said.

Despite this, eager sledders can head west or north to get their fix until trails are ready here. Gruneberg took advantage of open trails in Listowel last weekend and said there’s more snow even further west.

“There are opportunities 20, 30 minutes away,” he said. “There is open trail. Conestoga Lake is showing open and the western half.”

He added Woolwich has great snowmobiling trails when they’re open. But if you want to be sledding for more than the usual six weeks you have to venture further in search of snow.

“I’ve been north a couple times and it’s great,” he said. “Last year, right here was great. You didn’t have to travel. Last year I put on 700 to 800 miles just riding from home.”

As of now, they need six to eight inches of heavy snow that won’t blow away. The groomers have started packing down what they have and making the ground a little smoother. There are lots of heavily plowed fields and they need that much more snow to fill them in.

He started sledding about 10 years ago when a friend had an extra machine for him to use. After that he was hooked. Being part of the snowmobile club helps members like him feel a part of the trails they’re riding on.

“You get a sense of pride riding your own trails. And it’s fun when you’re out there working with a group of people to put something together,” he said.

He says the number of club members that come out has grown slightly, but they’re always looking for new members. Anybody who buys a permit and lists the Elmira Snowmobile Club as their home club, is more than welcome to attend their general meetings. They’re every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Elmira Library.

“Permits are strong, a little bit more than last year,” he said. “The online sales pre-November 1 certainly helps. People can save some money.”

For now, they’re asking people to be patient and stay off the closed trails, and the sidewalks. The Elmira club’s driver-trainer passed away last year, but the Bridgeport Snowmobile Club is offering courses to new and young riders, which he recommends.

“Stay on the marked trails. Watch your speed. Forget the drinking until you’ve got your sled parked,” he said.

Lastly, he reminds sledders to respect the landowners and stay off the trails that are closed. They need to keep the landowners happy because without them there would be no snowmobiling. Trail conditions across the province can be checked at the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs website at www.ofsc.on.ca.

“There’s still lots of winter left. Last year we rode well into March,” he said. “If we get something the next week or two, snow-wise, we’ll still have a decent six-week season potentially.”

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