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Plenty of white stuff, but snowmobile season still on hold as more is needed

Snowmobilers in Elmira are one step closer to hitting the trails after Mother Nature dumped the largest snowstorm of the winter thus far on Waterloo Region on Monday.

But they’re still probably going to need one more good snowfall before the trails will be ready, said Elmira snowmobiler Jeff Gruneberg.

Currently all Woolwich trails are closed.

“I spoke with one of the groomer operators this morning and he said he’s out there now but it’s still very thin in the fields, is what the problem is. It looks like there’s lots of snow, but it’s packed down really hard, or thin,” Gruneburg said.

The season will start around the same time it did last year, in late January to early February. It just seems like a later start because there’s been less snow up until now compared to last winter. He says sledders should expect to get their typical six week season in. We just need a little more of that white stuff now.

“Ideally we’d have more base on the trails in order to make sure that the bumps and imperfections and stones are covered up, so that it’s safe. As well, that cover of snow provides insulation to the farmers’ crops so they don’t get damaged,” he explained.

The closest open trails as of Wednesday were in Palmerston and up toward Durham. He says since those aren’t terribly far from Elmira hopefully we aren’t far behind in getting our trails open too. And February, which believe it or not is just 10 days away, tends to be the best month for snowmobiling.

“If we had a few inches of some heavier snow that would be nice right now, to weigh things down, that doesn’t blow and drift so bad. Otherwise, it’s keep the snow machine going,” he laughs.

For the most up to date information on which trails are open, visit the Ontario Federation of Snowmobiling Clubs’ website. Gruneberg encourages sledders to click on the interactive trail guide to see which trails are open, closed, or open but limited.

“When they’re yellow that means they are open, but it’s limited and you should use extra caution because due to that limited cover you still could find some ground imperfections, rocks, or water holes may not be entirely frozen over.”

In conjunction with provincial snowmobile safety week (Jan. 16-24), the Ontario Provincial Police and the OFSC are encouraging snowmobilers to follow all safety guidelines, such as staying on OFSC prescribed trails, respecting all traffic signs, never driving impaired, and only driving during daylight.

So far Gruneberg hasn’t heard any complaints of local riders hitting the trails before they’re open.

“I hope that people are getting the message that if it’s not open they’re staying home. But certainly we don’t encourage people to trespass because that’s what it is when the trails are closed, and doing so is a good way to lose landowner permissions, and without that it causes a lot of work to reroute an entire section of trail,” Gruneberg said.

He reminds people to be patient and that groomer operators are out preparing them the best they can, given the weather conditions.

“People are certainly itching, as any snowmobiler would be.”

After speaking with a groomer operator on Tuesday afternoon, Gruneberg said they were hoping to have trails in Woolwich open for the weekend, but they wouldn’t know until later in the week. To find out what’s open check the OFSC website at www.ofsc.on.ca.

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