Who Is The OFSC and Where Did It Come From?
(Barrie, ON: February 4, 2021) – When Bombardier started selling snowmobiles in 1959, there were no organized snowmobile trails, so recreational riders just rode wherever they could. They quickly realized that random riding was not only risky and inconvenient, but it was also creating a considerable backlash from local residents and property owners that was giving this new activity a bad name.
First Snowmobile Clubs: By 1967, recreational riders looking for easier and more acceptable places to ride had formed clubs in many communities. Existing separately and independently from each other, these first snowmobile clubs had two primary purposes. First, to organize and maintain safe and legal local trails for their members to ride, and second, to serve as social hubs for local snowmobilers to connect and ride with friends and family.
First Organized Trails: With the underlying premise of mutual cooperation and respect, club volunteers reached out to their neighbours and friends for permission to place seasonal trails across private property for the exclusive use of their club members. While many of these members volunteered to maintain their club trails, many clubs also started charging a permit fee to cover hard costs like equipment and signs. Compared to the previous uncertainty and illegality of random riding, most snowmobilers agreed that this new set up was a big improvement, and that snowmobilers helping snowmobilers was the way to go.
Growing Pains: With its increasing popularity, snowmobiling was soon bursting at the seams. More snowmobilers began riding more often and beyond their local club boundaries, buying multiple permits from various clubs to do so. Snowmobiling was also beginning to attract attention from various government ministries and agencies who wanted to connect with the snowmobiling community. Club volunteers soon realized that operating in totally independent silos wasn’t good enough to secure the organized snowmobiling that we now enjoy.
How Does The OFSC Operate Today?
As its name indicates, The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs works on behalf of its member organizations. As everything in today’s society has become increasingly complex, organized snowmobiling has adapted. Over the years, member snowmobile clubs have approved organizational changes into three tiers of operations to deliver an integrated, inter-connected, provincial snowmobile trail system. Today, organized snowmobiling is supported by programs, services and assistance offered at the local, district and provincial levels. Each of these levels contributes towards a common goal and together, they comprise “the OFSC”.
Tier 1 (Local): Community Snowmobile Clubs of the OFSC – Working in partnership with their community and business stakeholders, grassroots volunteers with these local clubs still lead all operational responsibilities to deliver a snowmobile trail network within their area. From working with landowners to obtaining permission to occupy the land, to trail development, signage installation and trail grooming activities, community snowmobile trails remain dependent on local volunteerism by snowmobilers.
Each OFSC member club operates as a non-profit entity under the leadership of its local volunteers. Any snowmobiler who wishes to contribute to organized snowmobiling can join and be active in their local club to find out what’s going on, but buying a trail permit for a sled does not make its owner a “member” of any club or of the OFSC.
To find an OFSC member club, go to Find Your District on the OFSC website, select a district and go to their website. On their home page, you should find a list of their OFSC member clubs.
Tier 2 (Regional): District Organizations of the OFSC – Generally aligned to regional tourism or government boundaries, OFSC districts also operate as volunteer-led, not-for-profit corporations, to provide support to the OFSC member clubs situated within their region. In addition to leading the local delivery of provincial programs, districts deliver programs and services of common regional need to their area snowmobile clubs. District support may include an operational role with the securement, development, coordination, connectivity, maintenance and grooming of area snowmobile trails. Each district is led by volunteers from its member clubs who form its board of directors and executive, and also has at least one staff person to handle administration and paperwork for district clubs.
To find an OFSC district, go to Find Your District on the OFSC website and select a district.
Tier 3 (Provincial): Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs – Operating within its mandate of uniting snowmobile clubs across the province and providing them with a unified voice, the OFSC remains the volunteer-led, not-for-profit corporation formed by founding clubs in 1967. The provincial federation doesn’t actually occupy land or develop and maintain trails. Rather, its role remains to support snowmobile clubs and districts by delivering provincial programs and services of common need through a small team of professional staff operating year-round out of its Barrie office.
The OFSC also continues to play the important provincial advocacy role with government and other stakeholders envisioned by its founding clubs. Provincial programs include: best practices and guidelines, educational information, tools and resources, insurance products, and access to assets and funding. The OFSC also delivers the Ontario Snowmobile Trail Permit program as the sole authorized agent for the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) with all revenues utilized for MTO authorized expenditures towards the delivery of organized snowmobiling across Ontario.
The OFSC is led by a team of volunteers elected by the membership, who serve on its board of governors and executive. The OFSC’s board meets throughout the year to set strategic direction and policy, undertake long term planning, and oversee the provincial operations and budget on behalf of member clubs.
Although local snowmobile clubs, districts and the provincial federation are separate organizations, these three tiers are the backbone of organized snowmobiling in Ontario. Each entity plays an integral role in what ultimately results in a network of over 30,000 kilometres of snowmobile trails, a fleet of 300 industrial trail groomers, and the generous contributions of 18,000 private landowners and 6,000 volunteers. Together, this snowmobile team navigates the labyrinth of government, industry, business, tourism and stakeholder relations necessary to make it all happen.
So when referring to “the OFSC”, you’re actually talking about all the people and all the entities involved in the “organized” part of organized snowmobiling. From the folks who prep the trails to your local groomer operators, and from volunteers who make decisions at club meetings to those who act provincially to support their efforts, the mission is to work together to deliver a provincial snowmobile trail system. Yes in 1967, local clubs founded the OFSC so snowmobilers could help snowmobilers – and that concept is still our focus today!
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.
For questions or to schedule a media interview with the OFSC, please contact [email protected]
To view more OFSC news and releases: https://mailchi.mp/8620a2cef4df/industry-newsletter-sign-up/