Season length and snowfall are two more good reasons snowmobiling in Ontario has stellar snowmobile conditions. Throughout Southern Ontario, a 12-week season is the norm on Ontario snowmobile trails, fed by lake effect snow coming off the Great Lakes, especially in the areas of Grey Bruce, The Georgian Triangle, Muskoka and Parry Sound, best known as Ontario’s cottage country.
In many parts of Northern Ontario, like the Northern Corridor or Elliot Lake, normal season length for snowmobile conditions can be up to 16 weeks, with snow that comes early and stays late. Personally, my choice for the best time to ride the North is during March, when daylight hours are longer, temperatures moderate and trails well set up. Besides, March riding in Ontario is a great way to extend my season, long after many other riders are putting their sleds away because the ground is bare where they live or normally ride.
Trail riding is what Ontario’s all about, thanks to the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC). That’s the provincial association whose 217 local clubs have been operating the trail system for over 45 years, investing a total of more than $494 million into trail development.
The benefit to visiting riders is that OFSC trails are connected and consistent. They are also mapped and marked for touring, and maintained by a provincial fleet of about 330 heavy industrial groomers. The OFSC trail system was well planned to connect hundreds of friendly snowbelt communities, so that fuel, food, service and lodging stops are frequent, findable and accessible for visitors.
The OFSC system consists of two interconnected networks, their trails equal in quality and ridability: Trans Ontario Provincial (TOP) Trails and regional trails. Over 15,000 kilometres of TOP Trails are the main thru routes that link each of Ontario’s nine major snowmobiling tourism regions. Within these regions, OFSC clubs operate over 17,000 kilometres of connecting trails. Together, these two networks deliver an unrivalled opportunity for visitors in search of great riding.
Ontario also welcome touring riders with state of the art information and planning tools. The OFSC produces a Provincial Trail Guide that provides a provincial trail system overview. Each of 16 OFSC districts also produces a snowmobile trail map that shows comprehensive detail. Meanwhile, the Ontario government produces a booklet called “The Ultimate Snowmobiling Tour Planner”, written by snowmobilers for snowmobilers, that answers every question you might have.
Like any product, you get what you pay for. As a snowmobiler, I’m more than willing to pay for the exceptional quality and quantity that Ontario offers touring riders. Unlike in the U.S., where trails are mostly funded by government gas tax or sled registration rebates, OFSC snowmobile trail operations are funded by permit revenue. So I buy a Seasonal Snowmobile Trail Permit for $260 CDN ($210 if purchased on or before December 1. Seven day permits are also available.) The permit is good for unlimited use on open OFSC trails anywhere in Ontario at any time during the winter, so the more I ride, the better value it becomes.
Ontario borders on three States with easy highway access to border crossings — Minnesota, Michigan and New York. From these, American riders can be on the snow in Ontario in less than an hour or two, or can trailer on four lane highways to points farther north. Thanks to this proximity, many Americans already make long weekend getaways to Ontario a regular part of their snowmobile plans each winter. They especially like GreyBruce (near Detroit), Muskoka & Haliburton (near Buffalo) and Eastern Ontario (near Ogdensburg, NY).
Best of all, you’ll quickly discover an easy familiarity with this Province. Ontario is more like traveling into another State than entering a foreign country. You’ll feel right at home with most of the major fast food and retail chains. Meanwhile, communicating in Ontario is no problem. Unlike in Quebec, English is the primary language. So all you have to do is get used to metric measurements for fuel and distance — and folks who seems to end every sentence with “eh?”
If the main objective of going snowmobiling is to discover the best trail riding possible, Ontario is THE place to go — just don’t expect to ride it all in one trip! The only downside is that Ontario has raised my snowmobiling bar so high that I’m not satisfied riding anywhere else!
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