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Just Do It

Just Do It

Why Snowmobiling will save your soul



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I heard the sounds of my posse fading away. The roar of snowmobile engines went quiet quickly, muted by the forest and deep mounds of snow.

The trail was wide and meticulously maintained, making my inability to un-wedge my front ski all the more ridiculous. I had pulled to the right to let another rider pass, proper etiquette in a sport that behaves itself better than most drivers on the road. I happily waved my crew onward, deciding that nobody needed to see me try to put my machine into reverse. It isn’t pretty.

They say you should try everything once. And they are right, this elusive ‘they’, who apparently have endless resources to go higher, faster, further. What if you have a few hundred bucks and a day or two? That’s all it takes to find out that Ontario is an all-season province.

I’m not a skier; I’m not a snowboarder.  I may excel at the après part of things, but my actual involvement with snow has best been defined by snowmen and stuck cars. But as a huge champion of every province in this glorious country of ours, I knew when the opportunity arose to learn something about part of it just two hours away, I had to go.

I’d never driven a snowmobile. I can prop myself up on a motorcycle, but like most of us, I’m best left to four wheels, and preferably those four wheels are supporting a car of some description. Snowmobiling is for those sporty folks, those who use words like ‘passion’ when they talk about it. Folks who aren’t like me.

Lorraine_and_Bruce

Owner of Pleasant Cove Resort, just north of Parry Sound, Bishop is one of many resort owners who offer snowmobile rentals in their winter getaway packages. With hundreds of kilometres of maintained trails in the region, I was astounded to learn you can literally snowmobile your way across Canada. But not on Bruce’s machines, I found out. I asked. They prefer to have them home by dark.

Surrounded by long time snowmobilers, I felt a little nervous as Bishop gave me a hands-on lesson. He turned the key. He pushed the start button. He indicated the kill switch and the brake. He showed me how to reverse, and then told me to get on the machine.
 

Like most things in life, there is no substitute for just doing it.


I would have to figure out where the centre of gravity was on the machine, which also meant figuring out where the centre of gravity was on me. Thankfully like most women, this meant my butt, which would help keep me anchored. I tentatively lurched around the snowy parking lot, my right thumb determining how much throttle would propel me forward and how much would scare the heck out of me.

By the second lap, I was a pro. I’d been told to hold the machine in corners with my knees like I would a horse. I debated telling them that horse thing was still on my ‘need to try once’ list, but decided against it. It didn’t matter. In spite of my lack of ability with skis or horses, I was careening happily around on something with two skis and a whole bunch of horsepower. There are still a few weeks left in the season, and smart planners are already booking for the next one.

Lorraine_Trail_Riding

We headed out for a day on the trail. Public trails all over Ontario are sanctioned by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs. They are groomed and well marked, with mileage markers and town names. Most cut through private land, with access given my owners to those using the trails. I rather like this cooperative ideal; in order for it to work, users must respect both the land and its owners, and in a day of sledding I saw no damage and no litter.  Riders are required to use proper hand signals for stopping and turning, obey speed rules and stay off closed trails. These instructions seem silly until you encounter others on the trail, at which point you become quite grateful for law and order.

I’d only arranged to spend the day, though I knew that most people spend a couple of nights at the resort. A couple of nights with comfy rooms and hot tubs and lovely meals. As I urgently worked my front ski free from the deep snow I’d inadvertently ploughed it into, I considered that hot tub. The only part of snowmobiling that had taken me more than a few minutes to master was the reverse. Scared of shooting backwards at warp speed, I insisted on clearing everyone from around me before I would attempt it. This is a great plan until you realize you’re alone and the machine is winning.

With some better concentration, I unlodged the machine and got back onto the line. My guide rounded the corner, checking up on the newbie. I gave him a big thumbs up in my mitt; you really do have to try everything once.

Snowmobiling Tourism Contacts:

Contributing partners for this Ontario snowmobiling site include: Intrepid SnowmobilerMurphy InsuranceOntario Federation of Snowmobile ClubsOntario TourismSnow Goer MediaSupertrax Media.

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