With winter sledding knocking at our door, it seems like a good time to point out and remind everyone of a few sledding facts that can help you be prepared for a longer excursion in northern Ontario. Who better to ask than the people who know it best? To that end, we asked a few snowmobile dealers from the north a few questions, such as, what calls do you get most often from snowmobilers who are passing through your district on a multi-day tour? For example, what sorts of mechanical breakdowns, or what items of winter clothing or other products are these snow voyageurs tending to purchase as they pass through?
Over the years, I've toured all over Ontario's North, from Sudbury north to Cochrane and Sault Ste Marie north to Hearst. All of these northern destinations can be much colder than their southern counterparts. The best way to enjoy your northern sled trip is to be prepared for the possibility of extreme cold. When travelling in the North, dress in layers and prepared for very cold temperatures—it's often -40 C in the mornings!
Here is what northern sled dealers had to say… First off, mechanical breakdowns do happen occasionally, but most calls are for recovery or to repair collision damage. Snowmobilers that go off the trail may hit rocks, stumps or other things that can cause damage. This happens frequently, probably more often than you would think. There are other considerations in poor snow conditions, with obstacles protruding on the trails that often cause collision damage. The best things to do are to always ride in control, and watch your speed on and off trail!
Another basic point to keep in mind is proper pre-season servicing. There are several problems that can arise when a sled has not been properly stored during the off-season. Before you take your big ride, make sure that you have done your maiden voyage first to work out any kinks and make sure that your sled is running properly. You'll definitely want to avoid any major breakdowns on a multi-day trip—it can change a good time into a real drag in a hurry.
During a big multi-day ride, snowmobilers that are passing through often buy spare belts and spark plugs to replace the ones that they've just been relying on out on the trails—carrying a few spares is always a good idea. Some people also like to buy OEM oil to maintain the consistency of the oil product that's been running through their machines, which I've always found to be a good idea.
Something that most southerners often don't think about is lid choice. Northern dealers are often amazed by how many helmets and heated visors they sell every year. Southerners often travel with an open face helmet because they're acclimatized to the warmer conditions in the south. These riders are frequently surprised by just how cold the north really is, especially in the mornings. Touring the north requires a good helmet that works well in very cold temperatures—be prepared for the extreme cold with lots of layers.