Many snowmobilers are upset about not being able to go trail riding whenever and wherever they want this season – and today’s rain across most of Southern Ontario won’t help. But all too often their social media annoyance is misdirected at OFSC clubs and volunteers. But that’s neither fair or justified.
Getting 30,000 kilometres of OFSC Prescribed Snowmobile Trails ready to ride, as shown Yellow (Limited Availability) or Green (Available) on the Interactive Trail Guide (ITG), is an incredibly complex task in any season. Yet, with considerable help from Mother Nature, 6,000 clubs volunteers normally manage to get it done.
But so far this winter, her cooperation hasn’t happened consistently enough across much of the province (for any snow-dependent winter activity) and consequently, more trails than anyone wants are still showing or going back to Red (Unavailable). However over 2/3’s of all OFSC trails had gone Yellow or Green by last week, a tribute to the determination and commitment of our clubs and volunteers.
Despite their best efforts (and going above and beyond the call of duty), trail conditions in many traditional snowbelt areas remain fragile, and Mother Nature continues to be unpredictable. Without deep frost in the ground, creeks and swamps frozen, sufficient snow to build a proper base or persistent sub-zero temperatures to freeze it solid, snowmobile trails will continue to be much more susceptible than normal to both temporary weather fluctuations and snowmobile traffic than normal.
Even the most expensive grooming equipment or grooming frequency can’t resolve these trail deficiencies, only mitigate them temporarily. That’s why you’re seeing much more fluctuation in ITG trail colours from week to week this season – many trails have just never set up as well as they normally would, and clubs are always playing catch-up to restore them as well as possible.
This abnormal situation is very frustrating for everyone who loves snowmobiling. Long before the first snowflake fell, riders purchased trail permits in anticipation of a good season. With that same expectation, millions of those permit dollars (over 75%) were invested last fall by the OFSC into new groomers and infrastructure, and by OFSC districts and clubs into the considerable costs of autumn trail preparations. All the labour donated by club volunteers (who are also snowmobilers) added significant value, both last fall, and over and over again this winter.
Yes, their efforts have already made possible some great trail riding this season in pockets around the province – and if we’re all patient and flexible, there’s likely more to come, hopefully even more widespread. Meanwhile, let’s commiserate with one another, empathize with our volunteers, and in our mutual disappointment, point fingers at the true culprit, Mother Nature. After all, we’re all in this together!