Local snowmobilers are still patiently awaiting the true kick-off to the snowmobile season, as many local trails remain closed, and lake trails have yet to freeze over up to safety standards.
The Orillia District Snowmobile Club (ODSC) looks after the 245 kilometres of trails in Orillia and area. Club president, Rob Love, says the only trails open with limited availability right now are along the rail lines.
“The issue right now is there is no frost on the ground which is causing issues for the mud holes, the marsh areas, and anywhere that is dry,” he said.
“More snow and more cold would help a lot of the local trails open up for sure.”
Love notes that it is not currently safe for riders to test their luck on the lake trails.
“We haven’t staked a safe area on the lake yet, we are getting closer, but so far this hasn’t been a good year for the colder temperatures for the lake areas,” he said.
Love encourages snowmobilers to consult with the interactive Trail Guide or Go Snowmobiling Ontario app that provides the latest trail conditions, which can change on an hourly basis.
The ODSC is anticipating more users and a busier season than normal due to the pandemic putting a hold on other winter sports and activities, creating a concern with the possibility of overcrowding.
“Our issue this year is we are expecting higher traffic than normal, and also higher traffic than normal for people walking their dogs, people enjoying the outdoors on skis, and everything else,” Love said.
“My message to snowmobilers is to be aware and share the trails.”
Love also encourages local snowmobilers to only drive on local trails this season, at least until it’s safe to venture into other regions of the province.
“We really are only meant to be snowmobiling in our areas only. Because of the pandemic, we’re not to be outside of our health unit zones,” he explained.
“In a good year, some people like to travel from here to Perry Sound to go for lunch or things like that, and now you won’t be able to do that as you can’t get access out of our Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit area; all linked trails will be closed.”
Love says the OPP will be tasked with stopping outsiders from using local trails this winter.
“It’s a difficult one, we are trying to avoid having people from other regions coming here to snowmobile, at least until we are out of this lockdown,” he said.
Local trails remaining off-limits to out of towners is what’s best for the safety of the community, Love says, noting local restaurants will miss the annual visitors.
“It was a very typical thing for snowmobilers who would come into this area; they would have lunch, and then travel home,” Love said.
And once restaurants re-open, it’s unlikely that local trail users will be stopping in for lunch, Love adds.
“All of the routes that people are going to use are a lot more local, and people will be out for just a few hours opposed to a whole day, so they likely won’t be stopping into a restaurant to get warmed up for a little bit,” he explained.
For new snowmobilers looking to get into the sport, Love notes there is an online program for operators from 12-16 to get their licence. Riders of 17 years of age or older can drive a snowmobile as long as they have a driver's licence.