As a dedicated groomer, I’m often asked where I live and where I enjoy snowmobiling myself. Often, once I've told people my answers—that I live in Dubreuilville and enjoy sledding locally—they're a bit surprised and ask me if I snowmobile in any other areas. The answer is yes, but northern Ontario is still my favourite spot to ride. Again, they are often surprised, considering that I've tried sledding in so many places and the north might seem remote to those who've never been there before. For me, that's the surprising part, because if you're a snowmobiler, the north is the place to be! Let me see if I can sum up the reasons why I enjoy riding in northern Ontario:
1 - Snow !
In a typical year, Northern Ontario sees early snow and trails open up sooner and end later in the season. Usually once we get snow it stays here till April. We have a longer snowmobiling season, with annual snowfalls of about 10 plus feet of snow over the course of the winter. Snowmobile clubs are able to pack down a good thick base for our trails. Generally, I ride from mid-December through to the end of April... that’s about 5 months of snowmobiling. In 2013, the snowmobile season in our area was so good that I got to ride in May!! Yes, you read that right… May. That was a first for me. (I'll try and write about this experience at some point for you guys, as I took plenty of videos and pictures).
2 - Low traffic
Since many areas have low population, unlike southern Ontario and the United States, there is less traffic on the trails. They get less damaged and can be safer to ride as there are fewer snowmobiles going over them. It’s a great place to bring any new rider to ride, as you know they'll be comfortable on the wide and well-kept trails. You do not have to worry about oncoming snowmobiles coming down the trail when you reach a curve… you can relax and enjoy your trip, knowing that you are safe on our trails.
3 - Hospitality
You will find comfort, safety and hospitality in communities and small towns located throughout the north. People in the north love snowmobiling—for us it's not just a way to pass the time… it’s our way of living. The residents are happy to see snowmobilers passing through their little towns. They know that snowmobilers help the town’s economies and that it helps create more jobs in the winter. Local people are always willing to help out a snowmobiler in need, from providing directions to the trail, to a repair shop or even where the best places to eat are. I’ve seen people offer to drive back a broken-down snowmobile/snowmobiler to the next town so that they can get repairs or pick up a part at a dealer, so that the rider won't miss out on his trip just because of mechanical trouble. I’ve done it myself, as I know I would like the same done for me if I was out on a trip in an area that I was not familiar with.
4 - Trails
Snowmobiling in northern Ontario is a unique winter experience that every snowmobiler should experience.. the trails are spectacular. They range from big logging roads, old rail lines that feel like you're driving on I-75, to tight, twisty trails in the beautiful forests. Most of the trails in the north run on old roads that were once used for logging many years ago, and now clubs maintain them as trails. They are fun trails to ride, easy to groom and long-lasting. The trail conditions don't deteriorate as fast as other types of trails. They need less snow to open up at the start of the season, and make for awesome trails. Many clubs have loop options that will bring you deep into the wilderness. Chances are, you will not ride the same trail twice.
5 - Scenic Beauty
The trails in Northern Ontario pass through some breathtaking areas. Most of northern Ontario is on the Canadian Shield. We have diverse terrain that ranges from flat areas like farm-land to high elevation, big mountains with high cliffs, forested areas to lake running. This makes for a fun and ever-changing riding experience in a variety of terrain. There's never a dull moment. Our trails go into remote areas as well, where you don’t have to do the stop and go routine of constant stop signs, the way you might in more populated areas. You get to ride more, ride longer, without the constant stopping. If taking pictures of wildlife is your thing, well, you are in for a treat as you will have the chance to see a lot of wildlife along the trails. You might be lucky enough to see a moose or lynx. While grooming the trails I get to see many of those, and riders sometimes send me pictures of the wildlife that they've seen.
So, those are my top 5 reasons to snowmobile in northern Ontario. I invite you to come experience it for yourself, give it a try and I’m sure you'll have your own top 5 or even top 10 list before long. Happy sledding and stay safe on the trails.
“The Groomer Guy”