You may be rejoicing at the warmer winter weather thus far, but snowmobilers in the region are not thrilled.
Milder temperatures have quickly melted away any snow that has fallen, preventing any accumulations – the trails maintained by local members of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs trails have not yet to open this season. It’s an increasingly familiar scenario.
“It’s got to be about $2.5 million of equipment sitting at the ready, waiting for the snow to come,” said OFSC District 5 president Graham Snyder. “Everybody’s done maintenance and they’re all ready to go but … no snow. Frustrating is a pretty good way to describe it, but depressing is even better.”
“We have to get a base for them to get out there, start getting a base down and grooming the trails,” added District 5 administrator Heather DeGraas. “We just need snow. We’re ready, though. We’ve got our machines ready to go, and our groomers ready to go so it’s just a matter of getting some snow now.”
The District 5 is a group of volunteers representing 25 clubs that operate 3,139 kilometres of trails throughout southwestern Ontario. The group’s goal is to establish and maintain snowmobile trails in the area.
Local clubs represented include the St. Clements Snowmobile Club and the Wellesley Sno Sports Snowmobile Club. Members were busy preparing trails earlier in the season, but have yet to enjoy the fruits of that labour.
“It’s really frustrating for the people who set the trail up,” said Snyder. “They did all this work already. The trails have to be set up for our signage guideline every year. They’ve got to be staked and signed … So that’s something you have to do way before you even think of snow coming.”
There was just around 12 available days of snowmobiling last year, which is nowhere near what the club aims for. In the immediate vicinity, that number was even lower.
“In the Woolwich area, we were only open about three days,” said Snyder. “What we open varies – it all depends. They got more snow around Strathroy and that area last year when we were just on the edge of having enough. And we more or less just opened just because we wanted to give everyone a taste of it again anyway.”
A snowmobile cannot operate properly without a sufficient amount of snow, and there is also the risk of dirt getting in the machine. There should be about four to seven inches of snow on the ground before a snowmobile can be driven.
The here today, gone tomorrow weather makes it difficult to predict precisely when the trails will be opening this year. Snyder said that the next two weeks don’t look promising, so likely after that timeframe.
“When we do get our trails open, everybody really needs to stay on the trails,” said Snyder. “If people don’t honour the trail system or cut corners to find their own way on the trail, there’s a good chance the trail won’t be there next year. We’ve got quite a few people getting frustrated with … sometimes the neglect of the snowmobilers for not staying on the trail. It’s hard to deal with. If everyone co-operated with that little bit, it would make our job easier.”
He also noted that the snowmobiling trails are particularly good up north and out east, so avid snowmobiling enthusiasts can take a trip in that direction to get their fix.