OFSC Updates Snowmobilers On Flex Trails & Recent Pandemic Developments

Flex Trails Provide Permit Buyers With Many Opportunities To Hit The Snow This Winter

What’s Included:
Trails To Ride 2021 Plan Components
• Pandemic & OFSC Trails
• Flex Trails & How They Work
• Looking Ahead to Winter

(Barrie, ON: October 22, 2020) – In prior releases, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) announced and updated its comprehensive Trails To Ride 2021 plan, focused on working through these challenging times to deliver the best possible trail riding experiences on as many trails as possible this winter with the cooperation of all snowmobilers.

Components of OFSC Plan: As previously reported, Trails To Ride 2021 includes several flexible, complimentary and integrated strategies for province-wide trail preparations, groomer fleet operations, and permit sales, plus pandemic response for the health and safety of volunteers, snowmobilers, landowners and snowbelt communities and enhanced communications with all stakeholders. The OFSC pandemic response includes Flex Trails (see below) to provide permit holders with as many alternative trail riding opportunities as possible if needed during these uncertain times.

Trails To Ride 2021 has been underway since the summer and is a work in progress since pandemic challenges are a continually moving target for everyone,” said CEO Landon French. “The OFSC remains committed to keeping snowmobilers informed to the best of our ability and knowledge at the time.”

Impact of Pandemic Changes on OFSC Trails: With recently tightened precautionary measures in four out of 34 of Ontario’s public health units (Toronto, Ottawa, Peel & York), some snowmobilers are wondering if this status change in our most populous regions will have any impact on overall trail availability this winter. The short answer is very little. The fact is that the Ontario snowbelt areas where most of the 30,000 kilometres of OFSC trails are located have reported few to zero virus cases to date.

In the four named public health regions, modified Stage 2 restrictions caution against non-essential travel into or out of each region. So, if any OFSC trails were now available to ride within any of the four named regions, local residents would still be able to do so. The only impact of a modified Stage 2 on OFSC trails would be on inter-regional riding. So, connecting trails located outside of a named region, but that lead into and out of it, would be temporarily unavailable for the 28 days that the modified Stage 2 is in effect. Meanwhile, trail riding within or between all unaffected neighbouring regions would continue as usual.

OFSC District 1: In the present situation for example, OFSC District 1 trails located within the Ottawa Public Health Unit, in a modified Stage 2 for 28 days, would still be available for local residents to ride. At the same time, under 100 kilometres of connecting OFSC trails located outside of this region, but that lead into and out of it, would be temporarily unavailable while the modified Stage 2 is in effect. Trail riding in surrounding unaffected regions would continue as usual.

OFSC District 4: Similarly, OFSC District 4 operates about 20 kilometres of trails leading into the northern end of York on the south end of Lake Simcoe. If these trails were available to ride at this time, they would be temporarily shut down for the 28 days that the modified Stage 2 is in effect. Trail riding in surrounding unaffected regions would continue as usual.

Flex Trails: These new developments and any possibility of future restrictions by public health units in primary snowbelt areas is already being addressed by the OFSC under Trails To Ride 2021. The OFSC has developed flexible options for trail riding this season to be implemented only if districts and clubs are required to do so in cooperation with their public health units. This Flex Trails strategy includes regional and local riding alternatives for any area with limited restrictions on non-essential travel that might temporarily impact trails or trail services, such as those just described.

How Flex Trails Work: For example, Flex Trail options could include trails within a public health unit being available only for local residents on a temporary basis. Or Flex Trails could enable regional or inter-regional riding to continue on certain designated TOP Trails through less populated areas, while temporarily shutting down others. Alternatively, some snowbelt communities might consider the Flex Trail option to reduce traffic locally in some locations while still enabling riders to enjoy other adjacent trails. Through this Flex Trail approach, as many trails as possible in the 30,000-kilometre OFSC network would remain available for permit buyers to ride.

Looking Ahead To Winter: Considering that the average snowmobiler rides less than 2,000 kilometres each winter, Flex Trails would still provide permit buyers with ample opportunities to hit the snow. If and when implemented, these options will be communicated to permit holders regularly and frequently through the OFSC website, Interactive Trail Guide, Facebook page, newsletter and Go Snowmobiling App alerts.

Recognizing that snowmobiling has not been deemed an essential service, the OFSC urges snowmobilers to do their part to keep trails available to ride by taking appropriate precautionary measures on every ride to respect the health and safety of snowbelt communities and services as well as of other riders. The OFSC will be releasing recommended health and safety measures for snowmobilers in November, well before the trail riding season gets underway.

Meanwhile, snowmobilers are assured that the OFSC is keeping a close watch on the evolving pandemic situation, while working closely with snowbelt public health units and our districts and clubs to respond as and when needed with the Trails To Ride 2021 goal of delivering the best possible trail riding experiences this winter.

The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) is a volunteer led, not for profit association that provides the voice for organized snowmobiling in Ontario. OFSC snowmobile trails managed by 200 community based, member clubs generate up to $3.3 billion in economic activity in the province each year.