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Snowmobile clubs anticipating new season with heavy snowstorm

With a winter storm hitting Ottawa and the valley this weekend, snowmobile riders are hoping it will bring enough to finally get their season underway.

The storm Friday night into Saturday is expected to bring up to 25 centimetres of snow in the Ottawa Valley, according to Environment Canada.

Scott Raymond with the Timberline Snowmobile Club in Pembroke told CTV News Ottawa in an interview this storm could make or break this year’s sledding season.

“Minimum for us to start would normally be 30 to 40 centimetres,” said Raymond, who is a trail groomer for the club.

“We need this storm to bring minimum six inches.”

The trouble with this year’s winter has been the mild temperatures, says Raymond.

Raymond adds enough snow and frigid temperatures are what’s needed for a good trail base.

“The weather we’ve had on top of the lack of snow hasn’t helped. It’s not freezing our swamps, it’s not freezing creeks. Even just standing water in the ditches aren’t freezing and we run a lot of ditches also,” Raymond said.

The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) manages permits for riders across the province.

“This snow that’s coming in overnight, and the storm across the province is really going to be helpful for us to build on the trail,” said Ryan Eickmeier, CEO of OFSC.

In Renfrew County, if the amount of snow that is forecasted falls, OFSC says it will then only be a short matter of time for local riders.

“We get this storm this week, you’ll start to see trails (open with) limited availability midweek to weekend,” said Terry Vaudry, administrator with OFSC District 6, which represents the Ottawa Valley.

Sledders riding through Renfrew County also mean good business for many establishments located near trails.

“We’re very ready, we really hope they come out soon,” said Jessica Milligan, guest services and group sales manager at Pembroke’s Best Western hotel.

“We’re actually on the trail, the one trail that comes through is right on our property,” she told CTV News. “So we have all of the indicators through our property and then we have extra VIP parking just for sledders.”

“The sledders really carry us through for the rest of the season because it does slow down quite a bit.”

Ahead of the storm, OPP also issued a message Friday to snowmobilers, reminding them to stay off of official trails, which remain closed at this time.

A warning was also issued to stay away from frozen waterways with recent unseasonably mild temperatures.

OPP says in the last 10 years, 158 snowmobilers have died while out riding, primarily due to drug and alcohol use and riding on frozen waterways.

Vaudry adds ideally the sledding season would run from December to end of March. He’s hoping that if this storm delivers as promised, a majority of the season can be salvaged.

“This year, I wouldn’t expect we’ll see 14 weeks but we should be able to get at least a good eight week season,” Vaudry added.

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