The 2022-2023 edition of the Ontario Snowmobilers Winter Forecast marks the 10-year anniversary of this tradition! For a decade now I’ve brought you the most comprehensive snow-positive guide to winter. Whether the forecast is right or wrong—we've been providing you with the scientific data, expert knowledge, and opinions to get you extra motivated and help plan for the winter ahead.
As detailed in the previous chronicles, this article interprets all the tell-tale signs about the coming winter for snowmobilers in Ontario (other winter enthusiasts are welcome to partake as well). I'll answer all your most pressing questions like, Where will the best snow be? How long will winter last? Where will the best riding be? And of course, why you should be prepared to plan the snowmobile trip of a lifetime!
A 91% would get you an A in class and in early September the modelling done by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that La Niña is favoured to continue through the Northern Hemisphere during the winter of 2022-2023 with a 91% chance in September to November. However, that will decrease to a 54% chance through January to March 2023. As La Niña fades towards the March equinox, the patterns will change into a more ENSO-neutral position. An interesting note, however, in the report indicated that there is a split in the dynamical versus statistical model forecasts that suggest La Niña may persist longer through January to March. So, what does this all mean for Ontario snowmobiling? You can easily view on the map below how La Niña impacts the jet stream—becoming a conduit route for the mixing of cold air and moist air together. Hypothetically this should result in significant and consistent snowfalls over much of Ontario.
The Professional Council
Brett Anderson, Accuweather Senior Meteorologist, noted in their Canadian Fall 2022 Forecast that “La Nina will be in place this fall, which will likely impact the overall pattern this upcoming season and perhaps into winter.” At the time of publication, his Canadian winter forecast had not been published however the fall 2022 forecast gives us a few good snowmobiler signs. Brett notes in the forecast that in Ontario we can expect “a drier and warmer fall” and that we will see “extended stretches of favorable weather for fall.” This is all good news for the trails we ride, providing time for the swamps to dry up, clubs to complete needed work projects, and most important: saving the precipitation for cooler temps—meaning snow that stays!
A new contributing source to the annual Winter Forecast is the Weatherman Plus on YouTube. The video below details how we will see Multiple Monster Storms Coming & Affecting Everyone. It's worth a watch and is perhaps a sign of trends for the 2022-2023 winter with the commonality being the prediction of a "one-two punch."
Very Bold, Very Cold from Very Old
You're still wearing your beach wear and basking in the summer sun each year when the Farmers Almanac releases its winter prediction. For its 2022-2023 winter report released in early August it predicted this coming winter will be “remembered as the time to shake, shiver, and shovel—a winter season filled with plenty of snow, rain, and mush as well as some record-breaking cold temperatures.” Pulling out my shovel and digging deeper into the Almanac bank I found the 204-year-old farmer's crystal ball announcing that we're in for a decent amount of snow, especially in late January. In addition, the first month of 2023 will be cold—very cold with one of the coldest arctic outbreaks that we’ve seen in recent years. How cold is cold? They're predicting a match-up at -40 degrees C/F. After big snow and bone-chilling cold in January expect February to bring sunny skies but it won’t be enough to end the season as winter is expected to go out like a lion in March with big storms.
We’re all familiar with the naysayers who preach about the doom and gloom of winter! You know those who frown upon lake effect squalls, squawk about clipper alerts, and squeal like a belt in a poorly adjusted clutch when the subzero polar vortex is predicted!
I connected with Jane who owns a local knitting supply store that will remain unnamed. Jane informed me that sales were steadily climbing as we approached fall, and although this is a normal sign, she did note that she has seen an increase in the purchase of larger rolls of yarn in comparison to previous years, a sure sign that the sweaters are going to be thicker and more plentiful than in years past. Jane did mention she personally hopes for a mild winter and could care less about snowmobiling as knitting was a much more technical activity.
Next, I connected with Matt at Desmasdons Boat Works in Pointe Au Baril and although Matt is a snowmobiler he has his reservations about a hash winter. You see harsh winters impact time on the water as well as the lakefront infrastructure. Extended sub-zero temps along with an abundance of snow can create havoc come spring damaging docks and shorelines. Matt noted with the return of the in-person Toronto International Boat Show January 20th-29th, 2023 he’s hopeful for fair skies, warmer temps, and clear roads to aid in moving multiple boats to Toronto and back. Matt did end our consultation with that once the show is over, he’s hopeful for good snow and ice so he can log seat time on his sled.
An Explorer Among Us
There probably isn’t anyone in the province who is more “remotely traveled” than Backroads Bill Steer. Throughout 2022 he’s visited the geographic center of Ontario as well as the other three cardinal corners which you can read about here. He's also planning to visit the most northern point of Ontario heading up to Hudson Bay and Fort Severn. As outlined in previous years' forecasts, Bill’s the founder of the Canadian Ecology Centre in Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, he’s also known as the legendary Backroads Bill Steer. I wanted to point this out again as he is one of the most credible sources on nature you will find, mentored by the late Gord Restoule of Dokis First Nation.
Bill is a snowmobiler, and the co-creator of the Explorers Snow Tour. Be sure to check out the documentary we filmed last winter, I really think you will enjoy it.
In my fireside sit-down with Bill, he explained to me that I wouldn’t be thrilled as a snowmobiler to hear his 2022/2023 winter prediction. As he loaded another log on the perfectly engineered fire he laid out that he’s calling for a mild winter as of late September—in fact, one of mildest we’ve seen in a while. Bill predicts that we’re not going to see as much snow as we’d like, the snow will come late, and it will be an early thaw. He backed up this prediction by citing that he’s witnessed a lack of mud on beaver lodges which translates into milder temperatures. Furthermore, the beaver feed beds do not seem as extensive, and therefore this points to a shorter winter. Bill went on telling me “I saw hundreds of sandhill cranes on the fields of Kearns (Little Claybelt - Temiskaming Shores) not in very much of a hurry to migrate, same with the geese and the loons; again signs winter is not on its way. The bears gorge themselves this time of the year but ones I have seen don't seem to have the fat stores on them yet. The deer have not moved, but it is early for this with the publication date, watch for that occurrence as it is a sure sign of an early snow shower.
Curious I probed further. What about the trees and birds, Bill?
I think you will agree the fall colours are slow this year, which is an indication of an extended season. The Blue jays have not been so raucous yet either.
A bit shocked by Bill’s prediction and the signs he was seeing, I steered the conversation toward the snow, asking when winter does arrive what will the snow be like?
The snow, it will be wet and that is not so much garnered from a natural sign but the continued signs of climate change. I prefer the term global warming just for the latter word. Jeff, you can still be sure we will get a winter storm or two, but riders may have to head further north to find the best conditions.
I thanked Bill for this snow-globe consultation and wished him well on his trip North.
THE RIBBONS WE RIDE
There’s been an unmatched positive climate around snowmobiling in Ontario as the season approaches. OFSC member clubs held their annual AGM in September and titled the event “The Reunion”. Clubs from across the province met to plan the future of snowmobiling as well as celebrate the efforts of volunteers in clubs. The big news is that $834,904 from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund was provided to improve OFSC Prescribed Trails in Northern Ontario—this funding will contribute to more than 10 projects and will surely improve our trail riding. Ontario Snowmobile Trail Permits are now on sale online and for the 2022-2023 season, Seasonal and Classic Trail Permits are subject to a small $5 per permit increase, which does not apply to Multi-day or Special Event Permits. I’ll personally note that this small increase is less than I expected and in my strong opinion the Ontario permit still remains the best value in snowmobiling, so please do purchase your permit and support your local club(s) and trails.
A Celebration of Winter
It’s the official kick-off to winter in Ontario, the Toronto International Snowmobile Show https://torontosnowmobileatvshow.com/ October 21st – 23rd 2022. This show is known as being the 1st celebrator for riding season, it really does get everyone amped up to get out on the snow and provides the best forum to see everything sled related under one roof including the opportunity to plan, purchase, touch, feel, hear, and yes even smell snowmobiling. For me along with many other riders this show provides a great opportunity to get together with your throttle buddies and get motivated for the best winter yet! After 2 years away I’m looking forward to seeing you all again – believing winter is going to be great is the first step in making it great, so load up the truck and come on out to the show!
A Later Start
I know you’re all itching to squeeze the throttle, however, signs are pointing it will be in late December or early January before we will see appropriate riding conditions. Combining the inputs from La Nina data, the pro council, and Backroads Bill tells us that it’s going to take a while for winter to show in full force. But when it does—per the Almanac—we will be in for a good ole fashion Canadian Winter. This later start will produce great results for the southern half of Ontario channelling several big-time lake effect storms to key areas. The northern portion of the province will starve for big snow early on providing ample time for a solid freeze-up.
Laughing at Skeptics
Although Jane profits from winter weather and Matt would like a calmer start, the signs point to the fact that January may be one of the snowiest and coldest we’ve seen in some time. Looking at the probability that La Nina will linger throughout winter, the Weatherman Plus is predicting multiple massive storms and the Almanac explicitly notes this winter will be “remembered as the time to shake, shiver, and shovel.” I predict that once old man winter shows up in the ring, he’s going to give the good ole blizzard one-two-punch repeatedly. Per the Almanac, March 2023 will produce out-like-a-lion conditions with big storms—a great sign for far-north April riding.
Wild vs. Cultivated
There’s a big difference in the predictions from Backroads Bill and the Farmers Almanac—a clash of sorts between wild and cultivated sources. The Almanac has well over 200 years to draw on while Bill retains the knowledge of thousands of years and kilometers. As noted, Bill had set out to reach the northernmost point of Ontario in early October and was met with a mean blizzard. Although he was challenged by this, he’s still sticking to his prediction of a less than desirable winter for snowmobilers. With all this in mind perhaps the difference in predictions from our two “natural” sources means that winter will be somewhere in the middle. Of course, depending on whether you are in latitude may determine the unfortunate balance between the snow-rain line.
The Final Revolution
There’s a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for this coming winter as highlighted. I think we may have the most upbeat outlook we’ve ever seen amongst the snowmobile community. You know that positive vibes bring good things as well as good things come to those to wait. We’ve waited far too long to open our doors and welcome back the world and now we can!
Ontario and Northern Ontario holds one of the finest winter trail systems thanks to the OFSC and some of the best sled-friendly communities and businesses. Always remember that Northern Ontario and snowmobiling is the place/sport where you can reach out with one hand and get five back—so make it a point to remain positive. After all, if there’s one thing that you can be sure of in Northern Ontario, it's that winter is guaranteed. See you on the trails.