I can’t remember the last time I snowmobiled back to back days so different from each other. Bright sun one day, raging blizzard the next, followed by a variable mix of sun & cloud. But their one commonality was great riding – welcome to snowmobiling in Midwestern Ontario.
Discover Midwestern Ontario
Midwestern Ontario is the northern half of what’s typically known as “Southwestern Ontario”. American snowmobilers trailering into Canada at Detroit (bridge or tunnel) or Port Huron need look no farther for a memorable experience than Midwestern Ontario.
Same goes for any Ontario riders living along the 401 Highway corridor or throughout the Golden Horseshoe who want to “ride more, drive less.” In fact, with less than a couple of hours drive, these visitors can be on the snow and on the trails in this region that includes what’s commonly referred to as “the Grey-Bruce”.
But Midwestern Ontario is much more than that. Sandwiched between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, it also includes a large chunk of the famous Niagara Escarpment, which forms the scenic spine of the Bruce Peninsula all the way north to Tobermory. Meanwhile, Its largest centre is The City of Owen Sound (pop. 21,341).
Trail & Snow Conditions
As we experienced first-hand, Midwestern Ontario’s fortuitous positioning within the Great Lakes basin can result in sudden and significant lake effect snow at any time. These often-unpredictable snowsqualls frequently dump massive amounts in just a few hours.
That’s why the almost 1,900 miles of groomed snowmobile trails throughout Midwestern Ontario can be groomed table top one day, but buried deep under fresh powder the next. Or, if prevailing westerly winds off Lake Huron are too strong, they can sweep snow cover off some open field trails in the blink of an eye, while piling up massive drifts elsewhere.
Kudos to OFSC District 9
So, with everything that Old Man Winter throws at them, the challenge for the snowmobile clubs of District 9 of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) is to keep their trails in tip-top riding shape.
They achieve this goal because their District is a model of grooming effectiveness and efficiency thanks to a recent reorganization that made grooming operations a centrally directed and cooperative effort. And judging from our experience there last winter, their new system is a resounding success for snowmobilers.
What’s more, as I’ve learned from many years of riding, the litmus test for trail navigation is whether or not visiting riders can find their way during a serious storm.
I’m pleased to report that OFSC District 9 passed with flying colours on day two when our visibility was often severely reduced. But thanks to plentiful and well-placed field stakes, frequent trail signs, numerous map boards, and their unique intersection numbering system, we found our way, even when the actual trail corridor was obliterated.
Our Supertrax crew staged out of the Best Western Inn On The Bay in Owen Sound. Located on the east side of town beside the water, this snowmobile-friendly hotel provides direct trail access from Trans Ontario Provincial (TOP Trail B at Intersection 144).
The Best Western offers ample truck and trailer parking, a scrumptious on-site restaurant open for both early breakfast and late dinners, reliable Wi-Fi, in-room fridge, and a hot tun & whirlpool. Fuel is available just south off TOP Trail B (turn right at Intersection 143).
Our Day Loops
Our125-mile first day loop steered east to include the Walter’s Falls Tour followed by a stop at Steven’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant in Markdale for lunch with fuel nearby. Our loop continued southwest through Durham before turned back north for home.
During our blizzard day, we had expected to snowmobile southwest from Owen Sound to ride the 164-mile Saugeen River Tour. But with so much lake effect snow in the way, we considered ourselves lucky to get in 108 miles of tough slugging in seven hours with a lunch stop at Walker Catering Co. Cafe & Eatery in Tara. One bonus was being able to visit scenic Sauble Falls on TOP Trail B018 just north of Sauble Beach (fuel).
Meanwhile, our 125-mile day three loop took in the Skinner’s Bluff outlook over Colpoy’s Bay (local trail running east from Wiarton), a neat lunch stop at the Hungry Hanger at the Wiarton Keppel International Airport, and a great view of Hope Bay on Top Trail B107. We had intended to ride a loop through Lion’s Head, but several of the guys had to trailer home that evening, so we detoured back to the Best Western early.
As you can see, Midwestern Ontario provides a remarkable range of sledding opportunities. Remarkably, there are no ice crossings anywhere. With trails starting less than an hour north of the Cities of London and Kitchener-Waterloo, the region is easily accessible from the Highway 401 corridor, and that’s why they say: “great snow is closer than you think!”
Where We Stayed: