By now many of us have our sleds prepped for that first ride and are waiting in anticipation. We've attended the Toronto International Snowmobile, ATV & Powersports show and drooled over all the new iron from Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha. We have tried on new gear at the dealership and ordered the remaining touring or get-up and go accessories for our snowmobiles from our favourite online distributors, and finally we have had that one last BBQ with our riding pals to plan which OFSC Touring Loops we'll tackle this year.
I’m ready, you’re ready! Our riding pals are ready… Now, we just need snow, and lots of it! If you’re anything like me, you keep a close eye on where the snow is falling in search of that epic ride! So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 ways to track Ontario snow this winter:
Create a ‘snow-stick’ and place it in your yard. This will give you an idea of how much snow is really on the ground and allow you to track each snowfall's depth.
Keep an eye on The Weather Network road conditions map, as well as weather alerts. Sometimes a squall can ‘vacation’ over an area, dumping massive amounts of snow along a narrow band. Plan your ride to head to the area at exactly the right moment, or hit the trails the day after.
Every year, I see more and more riders of all ages with GoPro helmet-mounted cameras. Jump onto YouTube and search for your favourite or prospective riding areas and subscribe to channels with snowmobile or snow-related videos. Chances are, the user will publish new videos again this winter. The ride footage from other riders can also help you to get an idea of the trail terrain. This tip definitely helps to pass the time until the first or next ride.
On your computer and/or smartphone, bookmark the weather links from Environment Canada, The Weather Network and Accuweather. Visit all three weather sites to get a better sense of the range for the upcoming forecasts and current conditions.
Get online! Become active on snowmobile chat and forum sites, Ontario or otherwise. Suggestions include: www.ArcticChat.com, www.DooTalk.com, www.FreedomSledder.com, www.OntarioConditions.com & Totallyamaha.com
Combined, these sites are home to over 300,000 individual snowmobilers. These sites are frequented by members such as the The Groomer Guy—the legendary groomer operator from Dubreuilville, “Revrnd”—famous for his lodging info, “bbakernbay”—a club volunteer from North Bay, and Nutter, who hails from Port Perry. All are active in reporting conditions in their areas and across the province. Who better to get snow reports from than snowmobilers?
Bookmark webcams in areas that you like to ride, or bookmark a few webcams from each corner of the province. Here is a small list that can help get you started on your way.
Radar is your friend in this case. Check out Coolwx, which displays the North American Mesoscale Model, forecasting precipitation type and accumulations from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. This slick webpage forecasts weather systems across North America for 84 hours in advance, giving you inside knowledge into what’s coming our way. For more localized radar, check out Environment Canada or The Weather Network.
Keep a close eye on the OFSC Interactive Trail Guide—watch as trails turn from Red (closed) to Yellow (limited) to Green (available). This will give you a good indication of snow quantity and quality, as well as the riding kilometre quota available. If you want to track the snow patters, snap a screen shot once a day and you will see an interesting trend form across the province as winter progresses.
Develop a relationship with local hotels, motels & restaurant owners and staff in your favourite riding areas. Nothing beats on-the-ground knowledge of local conditions and weather systems. These folks get the ‘word’ from the snowmobilers coming off the trail, locals and passing-through tourists, as well as the farmers, trappers and outdoors men & women who have a good sense of the weather trends in the area.
Use social media to your advantage. Follow the hashtag #ontariosnowtrails to see what other snowmobilers are talking about. Search out local clubs on Facebook in your favourite riding areas and ‘Like’ their pages. Many clubs will provide updates on the weather and trail operations, giving you first-hand knowledge about what is happening on the trails. Better yet, spend a day helping out in the Fall, and you can bet that your phone will ring when your club is ready to go!