PARRY SOUND - Heavy snowfall might make for dangerous roads, but creates ideal snowmobile conditions.
Friday's massive snowfall may have brought havoc across southern Ontario, but it also turned the region's trails into perfect paths for snowmobilers. In response, the local trails were filled last weekend, with riders taking advantage of the now thousands of kilometres of available trails.
The best conditions
"Conditions are the best they've been all season," said Bill Park, president of the South Seguin Snowmobile Club. "I ride them, and the snow, cold and winter weather is what makes them good."
The snow comes as sweet relief for snowmobilers in the region, as just a few short weeks ago rainfall and warm temperatures meant the Parry Sound Snowmobile District had listed all of its trails as unavailable. Warm weather that keeps the snowmobilers away during the winter is bad news for more than just the riders themselves.
"Snowmobiling is economically fantastic for the region," Park said. "It brings hundreds of thousands of dollars into the area in the form of food, hotels, snowmobile repairs, gas, groceries and other shopping opportunities. A lot of the time, people come here for snowmobiling, decide to stay here and may even decide to keep their businesses here."
At press time, the majority of trails were completely open and available. Snowmobiling is currently the biggest facet of the winter tourism season.
Anna Marie Harris, manager at Georgian Bay Country, said it's a big part of helping the region become a year-round tourism destination. She credits the extensive trail system as being key to the region's popularity.
"We are very popular with snowmobilers," said Harris. "You can come into Parry Sound and end up in Muskoka and further. Or you can just keep heading north to the Sudbury area. The trails we have are unbelievable. We have so many kilometers of trails and they're excellent trails for snowmobiling."
An excellent trail is one that's groomed, comfortable to ride on and provides good destinations for the riders to stop at. The numerous local clubs take pride in diligently maintaining and upgrading their trails.
Even when the weather is cold enough to ensure safe ice conditions and completely covered trails, there are still safety concerns for the high-speed hobby. Riders are encouraged to stay in control of the vehicle at all times, always ride sober and stay to the right side of the trail.
Jason Lockhart, vice president with the Parry Sound Snowmobile District, said riders should also always show respect for the trail itself.
"Stay on the trail and respect the trail and the property it's on. A lot of times these trails go through private property and when it goes through private property and is abused we lose the owners' permission and then we lose that part of the trail. Once you get off the trail you don't know what you're into," said Lockhart.
While snowmobiling might be the biggest draw to the region created by the winter weather, it's certainly not the only one. For those who like their winter fun at a more leisurely pace, there are plenty of wilderness activities in the outdoors as well.
"We have great trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing is huge - especially this year. With the bay frozen over and the success of the fishing derby this past weekend from Snow Fest we're seeing lots of ice fishing," said Harris.
All indications point to the snow and cold staying through the Family Day weekend. At press time, Environment Canada was forecasting periods of snow with a low of -13C and a high of -8C for Saturday. On Sunday there's a 60 per cent chance of flurries with a low of -18C and a high of -7C.