Have you noticed “Ride The North” promos and “JP Braaaper” videos on your social media feeds recently? Have you spotted new Ride The North billboards on Highway 11 while trailering there? Maybe you’ve even heard rumours about a “World’s Best Snowmobiling Destination” and wondered what’s up?
Here’s the scoop…
Here’s the scoop…
Where It Started
“Ride The North” is the public brand of a multi-year project currently underway, primarily in Northeastern Ontario, with the goal of developing the World’s Best Snowmobiling Destination. It’s a remarkable and ambitious undertaking that began as an economic impact concept around 2015. Since then, it has gained momentum and is now making considerable headway. It’s a work in progress, but very good news for the future of recreational snowmobiling in Ontario—a world-class sledding experience with up to a 4-month season!
Why It’s Important
Every snowmobiler knows that the line for reliable, long-lasting snow is gradually moving farther north year after year. That inevitable shift is expected to bring many more winter visitors to Northeastern Ontario. So it makes great sense for the region to be looking at as many ways as possible to consistently deliver an outstanding ride experience each and every time. Hence, their vision to be the world’s leading snowmobile destination. A lofty idea for sure, but why not shoot to be world-class all the way?
I’m not aware of any snowmobiling projects of similar magnitude and aspiration in any other snowmobiling province or state.
The 2-year Covid interruption has extended the original 5-year timeline somewhat, but the eventual results will still be amazing to see in Northeastern Ontario, which comprises OFSC District 14 & District 15 (and a small northern portion of Algoma Country that is in District 15). If all goes according to plan, the entire region should gel into a cohesive, coordinated, consistent, and quality destination for recreational snowmobiling, no matter where you ride. And no matter whether you’re riding OFSC Prescribed Trails or pushing snow in the backcountry.
How It Happened
World’s Best involves 12,000 kilometres of OFSC Trails, 12 snow tours, over 60 community-based snowmobile clubs and their volunteers, multiple communities, and countless service providers. It looks at enhancing many aspects close to every snowmobiler’s heart, like trail operations & consistency, signage, riding options, community access, and availability & variety of all services.
Considerable consultation with all stakeholders (including snowmobilers) occurred throughout 2015 & 2016, including a Snowmobile Summit in Cochrane, a web-based survey, focus group sessions, and an extensive review of best practices from other successful powersports destinations. The result is a comprehensive, 62-page “Northeastern Ontario Snowmobile Destination Plan for building the World’s Best Snowmobiling Destination.” That plan is now being executed, and that’s why we’re now beginning to see Ride The North promos and JP Braaaper videos.
Gateway Pilot Project
Meanwhile, work is also underway on the snow. The popular OFSC-promoted Snow Tour known as the Gateway To The North Loop is a real world pilot project, soon to become the best in class model to showcase what a new and improved Northeastern Ontario will look like. It’s not ready yet, but there’s already excitement in the air about what snowmobilers are going to be experiencing soon when they Ride The North.
Backcountry Play Areas
Although World’s Best focuses on optimizing trail riding, backcountry riders won’t be left out.
In a parallel initiative, a partnership of Francophone communities has already launched “Aventure Nord”. It identifies 12 “backcountry snowmobile parks” as play areas for sledders in search of fresh powder. The Aventure Nord website is already live and a new video is promoting these stand-alone backcountry opportunities, which dovetails perfectly with Ride The North’s call to action.
As it all comes to fruition, the World’s Best Snowmobiling Destination could ultimately achieve an as yet unavailable anywhere integration of world-class trail riding and exceptional backcountry opportunities that would coexist in independent proximity. And given the popularity of each activity, snowmobilers will have plenty more good reasons to Ride The North for many years to come!