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Ontario Snowmobiling, History and Winter Fun

Ontario Snowmobiling, History and Winter Fun

Tipis and TATA

If you want a real snowmobiling experience you cannot miss out on the opportunity to visit Horwood Lake Lodge and ride District 14.

Back in 1922 when Quebec’s Joseph-Armand Bombardier evented the first snow machine, he had no idea how landscape of winter travel in Canada would change. The snowmobile was born, and winters would be never the same!

In three short years, the enterprising young Bombardier designed a rubber-cushioned, sprocket-wheeled snow system and went into production of a snow machine, similar to modern sleds we see today. By 1937, the father of the snowmobile already had a sign above his garage which read L’Auto-Neige Bombardier and sales of the Ski-Doo were booming.

The snowmobile craze swept across Quebec, Ontario, all over Canada, and then worldwide. Today, there are nearly three million snowmobiles registered around the world, all thanks to one creative young 15-year-old boy from Valcourt.

Ontario federation of snowmobile clubs (ofsc)

The snowmobiling mystique in Northeastern Ontario is as vibrant today as it was in the early days of Quebec, governed by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC)—a volunteer-led association that offers the voice for organized snowmobiling in the Province of Ontario. Timmins falls into District 14, or TATA (Temiskaming Abitibi Trail Association) as it is known in Timmins District.

horwood lake lodge

When visiting the wily Northeast this winter in search of new snowmobiling territory, be sure to stop by Horwood Lake Lodge, a lodge fast becoming the snowmobile capital of the Northeast. According to Lodge owner Mike Brazeau, Horwood is now recognized for catering to the Back Country snowmobile enthusiasts, and for good reason. The take snowmobiling very seriously.

Many guests at Horwood lodge are winter angling enthusiasts as this region offers superb fishing options. “We have some guests who tear down the lake (approx 12 miles) to access great pike and walleye fishing on Horwood Lake!”  says Brazeau of his angling clientele.

“We also have guys who like to tow their gear and ride the backcountry exploring for little lakes and cutting holes,” he adds. “If they catch nothing, they pack up to find another lake and just enjoy more backcountry.”

Tipi at Horwood Lake Lodge.

Another unique aspect to Horwood Lake Lodge for winter snowmobile enthusiasts is the tipi experience they offer.

“Our bonfire tipi is always a hit with sledders who can have a nice camp fire inside the tipi even when it is extremely cold outside, as the tipi gets nice and warm,”  says Brazeau.

Brazeau offers his winter guests deluxe packages which include all meals, and this season they are capping bed availability to 18 people. This ensures guests will always find “new” snow. Mike says he learned, after having 40 snowmobilers at any given time, that most sledders simply follow others’ tracks and did not experience true backcountry riding. With fewer snowmobile enthusiasts onsite, Mike is confident they will rarely go more than three days without snow, so travelled trails are quickly covered with fresh snow for the next group of guests. It’s all about back country riding on fresh powder at Horwood!

“We are far enough removed from town or the OFSC trails, which allows sledders to find over 400 km of old roads to play on in untouched snow.” 

Photo provided by Jeff Morrison.

Fun snowmobile facts

According to the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations (CCSO) there are four major snowmobile manufacturers in North America: Arctic Cat (headquartered in Plymouth, MN); BRP Bombardier (headquartered in Valcourt, Quebec); Polaris (headquartered in Medina, MN), and Yamaha Motor Corporation (headquartered in Cypress, CA).

  • There are over 600,000 registered snowmobiles in Canada
  • The economic impact of snowmobiling in Canada is approximately $8 billion annually
  • The economic impact of snowmobiling in Europe and Russia is approximately $5 billion annually
  • Over 100,000 full-time jobs are generated by the snowmobile industry in North America. Those jobs are involved in manufacturing, dealerships, and tourism-related businesses. 
  • The average age of a snowmobiler is 44 years old.

Ontario Gold rush tour

A top snowmobile attraction in the northeast is the Ontario Gold Rush Tour, a winter trail ride created in the 1990s by snowmobile club member Mike Farr and other hard-working volunteers. This tour takes riders from farm fields along Temiskaming Shores through large tracks of scenic wilderness to Elk Lake. Check-out an interesting article featuring the Ontario Gold Rush Tour by motorsports enthusiast Jeff McGirr.

As mentioned above, the Timmins area is a world-class snowmobiling destintation. The trails around Horwood Lake fall under Snowmobile District 14, or TATA (Temiskaming Abitibi Trail Association). Check out the trail guide here.


Please take note that everyone who operates a snow machine in Ontario is obligated to have a permit. Find all information on getting a permit here.

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