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A mixed bag for snowmobilers as season gets going

The snowmobiling season officially kicked off last weekend in St. Clements with plenty of snow leading to open trails for eager riders. But this week’s rain and mild conditions meant trails had to be closed just as quickly as they opened.

Jim Muir, St. Clements Snowmobile Club’s trail patrol organizer, remains optimistic about a strong season going forward into January and February.

And really, anything would be better than last year.

“Last season was not really a good year for us with the weather we had. The season before was phenomenal. I don’t remember a weekend we were closed that year,” Muir said.

The club relies on local landowners who permit the club to operate trails on their properties – largely farmland – during the winter. Those who ignore the “trail closed” sign run the risk of damaging the field and having the club lose that portion of the trail.

“We have to be very respectful of the landowners that allow us to go across their property. In order to be respectful to the landowners to prevent damage to their fields, we have to make sure that there’s enough snow that we can actually run on the trails,” Muir said.

Temperatures are expected to dip back down to minus-10 to minus-14 in Wellesley over the weekend but there’s no forecast of snow until Monday, so riders may be waiting awhile to get on the trails again.

“We are hoping that getting into January when we get into some colder months and into February we start seeing some snow and we start getting some nice snowstorms and then we can actually get out and ride,” Muir said.

All of the trails in southern Ontario are closed now because of the mild weather, but Muir notes some riders will travel outside of the area to ride, it just depends on how far they’re willing to drive.

“You have trail access all the way up from here to Conestoga Lake, you can go up Stratford way, there’s all kinds of trail access there,” Muir said.

And when conditions allow, the trails in St. Clements see plenty of traffic. Muir jokes it’s like driving on the 401.

To check the condition of trails near you visit www.ofsc.on.ca. If the trail is green you’re free to ride on it, if it’s yellow there may be some rough patches and if it’s red you can’t ride on it. Muir says the group is reminding riders to stay off the trails when they’re red on the map.

The St. Clements Snowmobile Club hosts their infamous wing night the first Friday of the month from October to March at their Herrgott Road clubhouse, which is popular among riders and non-riders alike.

“It’s a very well known spot in the snowmobiling community. We were nominated a year or so ago for one of the best snowmobile clubs in the province and we were in a snowmobiler magazine. They recognized our wing night, so somebody was out at the wing night and saw what went on,” Muir explained.

He’s been snowmobiling for around 15 years and says in that time the club has always had a steady group of riders and a healthy volunteer base.

“We thrive on our volunteers. A lot of people love to volunteer there. The thing that I notice about it is it’s a very warm and welcoming group of people too. They make you feel at home. When you walk into the clubhouse you almost don’t want to leave.”

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