It has not been a good season for snowmobiling around the metropolitan area thanks to below-average snowfall in Ottawa, especially in December.
To make matters worse, of the 38.6 centimeters that fell in the capital on New Year’s Eve, all but five were melted.
Club-maintained snowmobile trails across eastern Ontario have yet to open this year, with authorities negotiating the fragile patchwork of land use permits begging permit holders to obey the closures.
For riders who have invested a small fortune in modern snowmobiles, insurance and permits, the wait can be painful.
“Everyone feels strong on social media,” said Wayne McDonald, who coordinates trail grooming for the Seaway Valley Snowmobile Association southeast of Ottawa.
“‘Why are the paths not ready to go yet? For they should be, you know, there is snow on the ground.”
Needs 30 cm of snow on the ground
McDonald said groomers need at least 30 inches of snow on the ground to create a base that will withstand the traffic of hundreds of riders during the season.
McDonald says early snow is not always good news either, as it is often followed by a thaw in January. That was what happened last winter when he did not pull his two 125-horsepower groomers from his Avonmore, Ont., Farm until Jan. 17.
Not far away in a workshop that sparkles like a dentist’s office, a picky Nick Carrey is fussing over his low-kilometer-long, high-performance Bombardier snowmobile.
Without having to ride, Carrey satisfies his sledding urge by treating the sledge with the kind of preventative maintenance that many machines will never see. However, there is only so much more he can do.
“It’s not comfortable,” Carrey said of the wait. “At least after the holidays, it’s normal when we start riding our snowmobiles.”
The wait may soon end
The leader of the Upper Canada Snowmobile Region – with 3,300 kilometers of trails stretching from Napanee, Ont., To the Quebec border – says he understands people are “eager to walk” on the trails.
Peter Asquini also constantly checks the weather forecast and compares it with buying a new boat only to see rain every weekend. Still, he wants riders to be patient because the trails rely on about 2,000 land use agreements with residents in the region.
“All it takes is a landowner to say ‘no’ and you’re breaking the connection in the trail network, so now you’ve got pieces of the trail that don’t stick together and you can’t walk anywhere,” Asquini said.
With a great Monday view of snowfall for large parts of the region, sledders may not have much longer to wait until they can get on the trails.