Great winter for snowmobilers

By Carl Clutchey
Local Journalism Initiative
The Chronicle-Journal

Northwestern Ontario — The weather outside may be frightful, but for Dan Lecuyer it couldn’t be finer.

The Nestor Falls lodge owner said it’s been about eight years since he’s seen as much white stuff piled up outside his window, setting the stage for what’s shaping up to be one of the best sledding seasons in memory.

“I’d say it’s the best snow we’ve had since the winter of 2013-2014,” Lecuyer said Tuesday.

Lecuyer’s lodge is located on a main trail loop maintained by the Dryden-based Northwestern Ontario Snowmobile Trails Association. Permit holders are offered more than 950 kilometres of groomed trail surrounded by cliffs and frozen lakes.

When snow conditions are as good as they are currently, it’s literally a sledder’s paradise. A group of riders can comfortably complete the loop in three days, passing through a dozen communities and comfy lodges offering food and a bed.

Lecuyer said he’s hoping for a better turnout than last season, which was largely a bust due to COVID-19. Whether American sledders drive up from places like International Falls, Minn. — as they often did prior to the pandemic — remains to be seen.

In the meantime, southern Ontario riders in search of snow have been calling the trail association from as far away as the Toronto area, said association administrator Audrey Robb.

“They don’t have a lot of snow down there,” she said.

For about $150, sledders can purchase a three-day trail pass to ride the loop. In all, the association grooms about 3,000 kilometres of trails in the Kenora, Dryden, and Fort Frances districts. A season pass can be had for $275.

If the cold weather holds, the season could last well into spring, given the large amount of snow in much of Northwestern Ontario.

“We’ve got a very good base (on the trails),” said Robb. “We’ve been getting a lot of tourism-related calls from down east.”

Meanwhile, provincial police reminded sledders to observe riding rules.

A provincial news release noted that the top speed on Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs trails is 50 km/h. It said riders can be charged with trespassing for sledding on private property, and ticketed for exhaust pipes that are excessively loud.