By: Bruce Robinson
Winter started for me when my dealer called to say that my new sled was ready for pickup. I love the smell of new sleds, new trucks, new accessories… you know, that fresh-off-the-assembly-line aroma full of carcinogenic compounds!
I brought my sled home and set it on the ‘lift’. I set the light just right so that it looked like a work of art poised ready for action. Then every time one of my friends dropped in, we visited the garage with a beverage and planned our winter’s escapades.
Although the ladies pretend to be above all of this ‘boys toys’ talk, don’t think for a minute they weren’t just as excited about winter as we are!
Liz and I live in the heart of snowmobiling country, Eastern Ontario style. Our club promotes family riding and, as a result, many couples are avid snowmobilers and we enjoy each other’s company.
We know about all those wonderful snowmobile excursions to distant locations that advertise ‘snowmobile heaven’ with the world’s best trails. Believe me, those trips are lots of fun and it’s great seeing new scenery, new trails, and make new friends.
But I want to spend a couple of minutes talking about the average ride for the average rider… what I call the meat and potatoes of snowmobiling!
For instance, Friday nights this winter I will rush home from work. One of our friends will likely have called to get together for a short run. We may sled to our favorite restaurant, then return the long way home just to take in a few more kilometers of our familiar trail system.
Hopefully, we will have crisp night air and a star filled sky, and we can possibly catch a glimpse of a rabbit darting across our path as we glide along effortlessly, knowing exactly every twist and turn in the trail like the back of our hand. But it never gets stale, does it?
What about those Sunday excursions where we gather six or eight of us and head for a neighboring club’s trails? We explore off the beaten track, leaving the TOP trails far behind to ride local trails through the back fields and bushes, maybe even to catch a glimpse of a deer or wild turkey.
We will stop now and again to compare notes: “I believe they’ve rerouted this trail since the last time I was here!” or “That old sugar shack is almost fallen down now!” Observations only folks who are very familiar with the trail can make.
Of course, any Sunday excursion is not complete without stopping by the clubhouse to see who’s there and getting a bowl of their famous chili. We arrive back just before dark and gather at one of our homes to order in a pizza, or maybe the slow cooker has worked its magic all day while we were gone.
For thousands of Ontario sledders, this is recreational riding, and it’s what snowmobiling’s all about. Many have never been out of their own county, let alone to the other end of the province.
Long overnight trips are certainly the mainstay of snowmobile tourism, but the miles of smiles that local riding provides makes up the bulk of kilometers ridden each year in Ontario. Local clubs depend on local riders to buy the permits, attend the events, and to lend a hand.
Without those local riders, a club is just an empty legal shell. It takes we locals to generate the passion, foresight, determination, and manpower to continue to keep our club trails top notch.
Now don’t get me wrong, the OFSC TOP Trail system is the backbone of organized snowmobiling in Ontario, and I love those connected trails that take us from one region to the next as much as the next guy. I also believe that the TOP system needs to have grooming and maintenance priority.
But in the grand scheme of things, let’s not forget where the bulk of the local riding happens… on those less traveled, backcountry routes that are the hidden treasures of OFSC trails.
This winter, I will probably meet many of you as Liz and I tour across the province on the TOP trail system. But we also look forward to our local rides with friends and family, because riding at h ome is a whole lot of fun too! Until next time, keep your skis on the snow.