PARRY SOUND - There’s hope on the horizon for the region’s snowmobilers.
Snowmobilers have had to stay off the region’s many trails as the uncooperative weather has made them too exposed to safely travel on.
Roland Cilliers/Beacon Star
The recent rain and warm weather have meant the end of favorable conditions for the many snowmobile trails around the region. The Parry Sound Snowmobile District is, at press time, listing all of its trails as unavailable.
Morley Haskim, president of the Dun-Ahmic Snowriders, said the lack of snow has meant they have had to close their trails located throughout McKellar, Dunchurch and Ahmic Harbour. Their problem is the same one facing all the trail associations in the area - not enough snow.
Earlier in the winter, multiple significant dumps of snow meant snowmobilers could be seen zipping around the trails, but all that has since changed.
“Snowmobilers have been around,” said Haskim. “Some trails were groomed and opened, but, since that rain, they have been closed.”
The clubs have been hard at work to keep the trails in good condition. Teams of volunteers have been hitting the trails to fill in holes, put up signage and build bridges. The Dun Ahmic Snowriders have put in roughly 350 volunteer hours to get the trails ready.
“We went out and fixed some of the worst mud holes and stuff like that,” Haskim said. “A lot of the trails have been traveled, packed and are ready to go once we get the snow.”
Jason Lockhart, the vice president with the Parry Sound Snowmobile District, said that snowmobilers will need to be particularly careful when the snow and cold does finally return. The warmer weather has made for thinner ice than your average rider might expect.
“We’re eagerly anticipating the next week and the snow and cold that’s coming so it will freeze over the swamps and waterways. It’s definitely another safety thing to watch. Anywhere where there may be waterways, watch the ice crossings,” said Lockhart.
“Some of the lakes don’t have any ice, so it’s pretty obvious you should keep off them, but what is there is probably still unsafe until we get enough cold to really freeze things up again.”
According to weather forecasts, snowmobilers should be getting what they are looking for. The forecasts point to conditions that are perfect for the region to receive a significant snowfall.
Geoff Coulson, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the region is in store for some big changes. Snowfall is likely to increase while temperatures are expected to drop in the closing weeks of January.
“There is a possibility, as we get into much colder temperatures starting on Sunday, that we will see the lake effect engine start up and we could see a fair amount of lake effect snow,” said Coulson.
“It’s difficult to say whether Parry Sound is going to see the heaviest amounts of this lake effect as perhaps areas a little further to the south will get it if the winds shift around a bit.”
Lake effect snow, which has traditionally led to higher quantities of snow for the area, is snow that arrives as a result of cooler air moving across long expanses of warmer water. The cold winds pick up water vapor as they travel across the water, which is then dropped as snow on the shores.
The more dramatic weather conditions are expected as a result of weather systems passing overhead. Starting on Wednesday afternoon, a low pressure system from the prairies blew through, which was subsequently followed by other storm systems.
The most important upcoming factor that will likely lead to snow is the colder temperatures expected to start on Sunday.
Coulson said he looked at the expected quantity of snow numbers for their Ravenscliffe observation site and found the quantity of snowfall is right now at 93.6 centimetres. The normal for that site, which is significantly further inland than Parry Sound, is 213 centimetres by the end of the month.
“We do have the potential with this more active weather and colder temperatures coming in over the course of the next week or so to see these snow numbers, which right now are about half of where we should be, we should be able to add to the totals so we push up closer to that 213 centimetres,” said Coulson.