The Reason to Buy Your Permit Early

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The operation of Ontario snowmobile trails is solely funded by snowmobilers buying permits.

Ontario snowmobiling does not benefit from any dollars from fuel taxes, sled registrations or other government largesse for regular snowmobile trail operations.

So OFSC snowmobile clubs must rely on snowmobilers buying enough permits – and purchasing them early enough – to pay the considerable start up costs for trails and equipment each fall.

Annual Trail Preparations

32,000 kilometres of snowmobile trails in Ontario don’t appear each winter by chance or by magic or just because snow conditions are right. Virtually every kilometre of trail needs to be inspected and prepped to get it in shape before the snow comes, because after the white stuff falls or the ground freezes, it’s too late to do significant trail prep.

This means that thousands of club volunteers hit the trails each fall to discover what Mother Nature has wrought since the trails closed last winter. Everything from washouts to erosion ruts and from downed trees and new undergrowth to landslides and newly flooded areas (Thank you, Mr. Beaver!) have to be filled, graded, cut and removed – and that doesn’t take into account extraordinary damage frequently left by freak micro bursts, sudden wind storms and lightning strikes over the spring and summer. It’s a massive job even before putting trail signs back up, replacing missing or damaged map boards, repairing or building bridges and culverts, fixing ATV damage, opening gates and fences, and staking fields, water crossings and utility corridors.

Early Permit Sales Pay The Way

And it all takes money – dollars committed before December 1 to get trails ready for whenever it snows. These dollars pay for heavy equipment, professional contractors and operators, loads of fill, fuel, lumber, posts, signs, brushing and chainsaw rentals, insurance, groomer servicing and repairs – the list of work that must be done before winter arrives goes on and on. This is over and above the normal, ongoing expenses incurred by the clubs – groomer payments, bank loan payments, insurance premiums, administration and meeting costs, and all the other taxes and overhead involved in running a year-round business in Ontario.

Ontario’s 217 snowmobile clubs proceed to do all this hard work and incur these bills in good faith, faith that they can have the trails ready on time. Faith that winter will come. And most of all, faith that snowmobilers will support them by purchasing their permits early enough to pay for it all.

Here’s the Deal

Any time Mother Nature is involved, it’s a crapshoot. That’s why all snowmobilers have to stand together: The clubs to get the trails ready early, regardless. And the riders to buy their permit early, regardless. If either party reneges on this deal by waiting to know for certain what winter will bring, bad things happen. If the clubs wait, the trails won’t be ready to ride. If the snowmobilers wait, the clubs won’t be able to pay their bills and certainly won’t have the money to groom. Either outcome would break the faith and result in poor trail riding.

There are no guarantees with the weather. But there is one guarantee snowmobilers don’t want to lose – the guarantee that the clubs will be out there each fall getting the trails ready. And the only way to keep this guarantee in place is for every rider to buy a trail permit on or before December 1st.

It’s absolutely the best way to keep the clubs motivated, active and convinced that doing all this work year after year is worthwhile and appreciated. So what do you want to give you club this fall, a slap in the face by not buying a permit early, or a pat on the back by making your permit purchase by December 1st? Please keep the faith.

Craig Nicholson
Craig Nicholson
Popularly known as The Intrepid Snowmobiler, Craig Nicholson is an International Snowmobile Hall of Fame journalist and Supertrax contributor. Craig has snowmobiled in every region of Canada and many states. His one-of-a-kind tour book, "Canada's Best Snowmobiling – The Ultimate Ride Guide", chronicles his adventures, as does his website and Facebook page.

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