Snowmobile trails open on Island

MANITOULIN—Grooming of Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) snowmobile trails started on Western Manitoulin last week, while trails on the east end of the Island were slated to begin on Monday of this week, said a spokesperson for the Manitoulin Snowdusters Snowmobile Club (MSSC).

“We started grooming trails on Western Manitoulin today,” said Brad Middleton, on Thursday of last week. “Doran (McVey) took the groomer from Gore Bay to Kagawong and will be taking the groomer up to Meldrum Bay for several days.”

“There is more snow on Western Manitoulin than on the east half of the Island. Therefore, we were able to start grooming the trails a few days earlier on the West End,” said Mr. Middleton.

As of Sunday afternoon, all trails from Kagawong west to Meldrum Bay have been groomed, except for the trail that runs from Gore Bay down to Providence Bay and Mindemoya, which was expected to be completed earlier this week.

The east end groomer was not slated to start until this past Monday due to less snow in the area. “By Friday, January 22 we hope to have all the trails on the east end of Manitoulin done as well,” said Mr. Middleton. “It will take most of the week to get the first pass made over all of them.”

Mr. Middleton explained, “we often get complaints by sledders after the first initial groom/pass each season saying that the trail is still rough, with a few rocks and stumps crunching underneath the sled. That is only natural. We are grooming at the time of year when the snow is the least deep. As more snow falls throughout the winter those imperfections quickly disappear, with each subsequent pass the groomer makes over the trail. In no time at all, it turns out like a highway.”

Mr. Middleton also said, “because of the unusual amount of rain Manitoulin got in November and December (the precipitation unfortunately came in the form of rain not snow) some of the trails still have water holes across them, with depths varying from a few inches to upwards of one foot. This is especially the case where the trail passes through low lying or swampy areas. Lack of cold weather up until now hasn’t helped. The big groomer crashes through the thin layer of ice on these water holes.”

“These large industrial machines have no trouble getting through, but you and your sled might,” said Mr. Middleton. “Hopefully, over the next few nights these water holes will freeze up solid and the problem will be solved for the rest of the season.”

As well, “because of the unusually mild weather in December and January, no ice trails (stake lines) across frozen lakes are in place yet in the usual areas,” said Mr. Middleton. “In fact, MSSC highly recommends that snowmobilers stay off the lakes entirely for the time being. Depending on how much cold weather we get, it might be as much as two or more weeks before travel on even the inland lakes can take place.”

The trail from M’Chigeeng to Kagawong (the one that goes north from Manitoulin Secondary School), is definitely gone for this season, said Mr. Middleton. “We will have a big break in the trunk line along the north side of Manitoulin this year. We hope to have something in place for next year.”