Head North for the Best Ride of the Year

Virgil Knapp

March Break has come and gone, and across Ontario, families have fond memories of a real wintry holiday that some say has been long overdue. Others stayed home indoors; plans perhaps interrupted once again by old man winter and his arctic antics.

It has been quite a few years since over 80% of the OFSC's snowmobile trails have been available for exploration this late in the season and, by all indications of the current weather patterns, there are still a few snowmobiling weeks remaining. 

Today is the first day of spring! Yes, believe it or not, it is March 20th, 2014—which is the spring equinox; this is the time of year when the days and nights are approximately equal. The equinox is an indisputable sign that spring is on the way. It’s also the best opportunity to enjoy some of the most outstanding snowmobiling days of the year. 

The warm sun during the daytime makes for pleasurable limited-layer riding, while the cool nights keep trails crisp. With the daylight hours and night hours being relatively equal, this is the time of year when you can log long hours and mega-kilometres on your snowmobile before packing it away in the garage or trailer. Remember, just 60 days from now you will yearn for your first December ride.

Virgil Knapp

Late-season snowmobiling is also the perfect time to spend with younger family members, or introduce new prospects to the sport. In the months of December, January and February, weather systems can be unpredictable, with frequent snow storms and colder temperatures making it more of a challenge to accommodate less-experienced riders. With the warm spring sun and optimal trail conditions, this composition can create an incredibly pleasant experience. The spring sun eliminates snow dust and rarely do visors fog up, which can sometimes frustrate new riders.

For the experienced and acclimatized ridership, late season snowmobiling offers a variation from the normal. Snowmobiling at this time of year spawns an environment that allows you to reach new levels of distance. From December to January, the daylight hours were short, with the sun rising around 8 am and setting just close to 5 pm. By late March, the equinox delivers over twelve hours of ‘day’, creating the opportunity for epic rides that would, earlier in the season, result in departing at dawn and returning back to your hotel in the dark.

The abundance of snow in late season is sometimes referred to as ‘hero snow’ by backcountry enthusiasts—it's the time of year when you can snowmobile almost anywhere, as the snowpack is thick, compressed and relatively easy to maneuver in. For those of us that are keen on chasing the last bit of powder snow in Ontario, riding areas like the Laurentian Foothills, located north of Mattawa, and the Abitibi Canyon north of Cochrane, are generally reliable locations to hunt down untouched, undisturbed snow.

This spring is the perfect time to book a 3 or 4 day weekend adventure in Northern Ontario. While areas in the south of Ontario are losing trail connections due to melting fields, lakes and roadways, the trails in the north are in superb condition. The powder is still in abundance and even though all signs point that spring is around the corner, it’s amazing the difference a few hours north on the highway can make!

Virgil Knapp

A few Late Season Riding Tips for your Trip

  1. Know before you go! Don’t take chances on ice conditions!
  2. Phone ahead and talk to local snowmobilers or hotel operators about the conditions. You may have to trailer from your hotel to the trails if roads are deteriorating.
  3. Bring all your riding gear—it can go from +5 C to -20 C in a matter of hours
  4. Let friends or family know your itinerary, just in case something happens
  5. When you’re done your last ride, wash your snowmobile and trailer and perform storage procedures now! Don’t wait till next fall!

And don't forget, This Is Winter!

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