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Polar Bear Riders Open First Trails for 2020 Season

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Polar Bear Riders Open First Trails for 2020 Season

The Greenwater Warming Shack is already open and ready to serve. Photo: Ryan Hawkins

Once again, the season starts in Cochrane, Ontario. Ride like an animal with the Polar Bear Riders snowmobile club.



The Ontario snowmobile season has officially started, and the first trails to open are in Cochrane. Trails don’t just happen, so let’s look at one of the most proactive OFSC snowmobile clubs, The Polar Bear Riders. What does it take to operate an efficient club in an area with one of the longest snowmobile seasons? Let’s find out…

Many hands make light work

Operating with a group of 15-20 volunteers makes this all possible. These key individuals put in many hours year-round so snowmobilers can experience immaculate trails once the season is underway. Students donate their time, which goes towards their volunteer hours within the school program. There are two groomer operators on the payroll to ensure that a grooming schedule is adhered to on a regular basis. An additional eight to 10 volunteer operators fill in the gaps, which keeps those groomers moving.

Maintaining a valuable fleet

Two Prinoth Husky groomers (2012 and 2018) operate approximately 1,200 hours per season to keep 325 km of trail tabletop-smooth in this part of Northeastern Ontario. If you come across a groomer while out riding, be sure to give them space and check that it is safe to pass before overtaking. What most snowmobilers don’t see is all the behind-the-scenes effort in the off-season. Volunteers use their own vehicles, ATVs, and Side by Sides, which all are a big part of trail maintenance. When a machine breaks down or needs scheduled maintenance, it's handy to have individuals donate their expertise to keep them running at optimal performance. Give the operators a wave when you see them as they are donating their time for you, the riders.

Pass the elbow grease

Not all jobs are glorious but each is an important piece of the puzzle. Fixing and verifying signage, running detours around logging operations, cutting fallen trees and brush, bridge and washout repair, installing fences on private property, and cutting firewood for warmup shacks are just a few of the chores that take place throughout the year.

It's hopeful that bridges across the Frederick House River may one day be possible, but for now flooding takes place. Making upwards of a half-inch of ice per day, this is a key step in making ice crossings safer, allowing snowmobiles and groomers to pass. With two major river crossings in their district, a four-stroke water pump assists with solid ice formation. Volunteers hard work and countless hours ensure that all the behind-the-scenes tasks are completed.

Why Snowmobile in Cochrane?

Kenny Johnston is the Polar Bear Riders club president and recipient of the 2019 District 15 Volunteer of the Year award. Kenny mentions that “Cochrane is blessed with long winters and usually great snow conditions. It’s one of the reasons I moved to the area to both work and play. We have great equipment provided to us by the OFSC and our volunteers are passionate about making great, safe trails which attract snowmobilers from all over Ontario and the northern US.”

I for one enjoy visiting Cochrane multiple times throughout the snowmobile season. The town caters to snowmobilers which makes it a destination that every sledder should experience. Trekking up the Abitibi Canyon snow tour loop to Base Camp is one of the most beautiful trails in Ontario. Amenities in the area include full-service dealerships such as Pap’s Power Shop, restaurants like J R BBQ Ranch, the Best Western Swan Castle Inn hotel, and multiple gas stations within the town.

Cochrane hosts snowmobile events every year which include The Great Northern Expedition endurance snowmobile ride and Oval racing. If you’re looking some local attractions, be sure to visit the Cochrane Classic Vintage Snowmobile Museum, the Polar Bear Habitat, or a Cochrane Crunch hockey game.

There are many hard-working clubs within the OFSC. The Polar Bear Riders would like to thank all the permit holders who support their efforts by purchasing a trail permit each year and checking them as their club of choice. The club works closely with local businesses to organize trail sponsorships so that sledders can enjoy premium trails. Follow the Polar Bear Riders Snowmobile Club on Facebook for up-to-date information about their trails. If you haven’t had the chance to explore Cochrane, you don’t know what you’re missing!

Follow Canuck Powersports on social media as Ryan Hawkins explores epic roads and snowmobile trails throughout the year.

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