Hitting the trails

The picket line is now in to Spanish from Gore Bay as are the lines for Little Current to Killarney, Little Current to Whitefish Falls and to Killarney, and a new line from Honora Bay to M’Chigeeng.

MANITOULIN—The rainy weather Monday of this week hasn’t dampened the spirits of members of the Manitoulin Snowdusters who were busy grooming the trails to ready the Island for what they hope to be a busy weekend, with the Easter Seals charity Snowarama event and also the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) ‘Try our Trails’ permit launch.

Sue Middaugh, Snowdusters secretary, explained that her two sons were busy grooming the Island’s trails starting with Little Current to Gore Bay Sunday night then on to Silver Water Monday. Unfortunately, while this winter has been great for snow, it’s been hard on groomers. The club is currently down one groomer, as it has been in and out of the shop for repairs. At one point, the Sudbury club kindly donated one of its groomers for the Snowdusters to use, but it soon needed repairs too and was also out of commission, bringing the club back to one. However, “the trails are opened completely,” she said.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges this season, but our volunteers are doing the very best they can,” Ms. Middaugh said. “It’s going to be an expensive year for us.”

With the plentiful snowfall this winter, the Snowdusters are experiencing a good season on the trails, but permit sales are still down. It causes frustration for the volunteers who man the groomers and often see snowmobilers enjoying the trails without a permit. With the OFSC ‘Try our Trails’ permit on offer this Saturday through Monday, Ms. Middaugh hopes snowmobilers will download the permit, appreciate the trails, then buy a trail permit for the rest of the season or for the following year. This also coincides with the Family Free Fishing weekend, where those without a fishing licence can fish licence-free, also from Saturday through Monday.

The 2013 ‘Try our Trails’ permit is available only by pre-registering online at www.ofsc.on.ca, completing the Try our Trails permit application and printing out a permit good for the Family Day long weekend only. There is no charge for either the 2013 ‘Try our Trails’ permit or the registration process, but to access OFSC trails, the printed permit must be affixed to the sled to which it is assigned in accordance with Ontario law. Any sled on OFSC trails without a permit on Family Day long weekend is illegal and the operator can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000. Riders must also carry a valid driver’s licence or Snow Vehicle Operator’s licence, sled registration, proof of insurance, and follow all the rules and assumptions for safe OFSC trail riding.

This is also good news for those wanting to hit the trail for the second annual Manitoulin Snowarama for Easter Seals this Sunday. Sledders are asked to meet at the Mindemoya Community Centre between 11 am and 2 pm for registration. Participants must have raised a minimum $25 in pledges and have a trail permit and can look forward to a complimentary lunch. Prizes for top fundraising individual, oldest and youngest participant, youngest driver and oldest snowmobile will be up for grabs. For more information, please phone 705-282-2741.

For those looking to venture a little further afield, Ms. Middaugh confirmed that the pickets marking the way from Little Current to Killarney and from Gore Bay to Spanish are out, but that, as always, these ice trails are ‘use at your own risk.’ “Because it’s a water crossing, it’s not an official trail,” she said. These trails are being enjoyed by some, however, as reports of upwards of 80 snowmobilers in Killarney over the weekend were heard by the club secretary.

“We’ve got snowmobilers out there, which is wonderful to see,” Ms. Middaugh said. “This (Monday’s weather) is the only bump in the road, weather wise.”

“I know $260 (the cost of a trail permit) seems like a lot, but if people don’t buy permits we will lose our club,” the secretary continued. “We have some beautiful trails on Manitoulin and we don’t want to lose them. We need to sell a minimum of 50 permits or they will take our club status. Financially, we’re okay right now, but if people don’t keep supporting the club, we will lose it. This region has gone from five clubs to two in just a matter of months.”

For a list of trail conditions, visit www.ofsc.on.ca.

Alicia McCutcheon