There’s plenty of snow but grooming operations by the Sunset Trail Riders are on hold until cold weather freezes the ground and water beneath the network of land and lake trails maintained by the snowmobile club in the Kenora area.
“We’re getting snow but the problem is it’s acting as an insulating blanket and keeping the ground from freezing underneath,” explained Sunset Trail Riders president Richard Wilkening. “We need colder weather, there’s enough ice on the lakes to support the snow but our groomer weighs 20,000 lbs. and we need at least 16 inches of good, hard, blue ice and that takes a while to form. We’re all volunteers and nobody likes to get wet.”
The thin ice has also prevented club members from getting out on the lakes to mark trails although Wilkening hopes that staking activities will get underway shortly.
Snowmobilers are well advised to limit their riding to solid ground until lake conditions improve.
Wilkening also commented on Ontario Hydro’s proposal to charge snowmobile clubs for trail access along powerline corridors to recover a portion of property taxes the utility pays on the land.
“At this point it’s all being argued at the provincial level. We’ll have to wait to see what happens,” he said. Wilkening suggested the issue may be more relevant in southern Ontario where powerline corridors and snowmobile trails cross private property compared to the Northwest where they are primarily located on Crown land.
Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha criticized Ontario Hydro’s plan as a “cash grab” that threatens the community-based volunteer snowmobile clubs across the province.
“Snowmobile clubs do not have the funds to cover property taxes for hydro corridors,” Mantha stated in a news release.
Meanwhile, Wilkening noted seasonal permit sales are going very well with about 475 members purchasing the permits prior to the end of the early bird discount on Dec. 1.
“We’re a little below last year but doing well,” he said.
The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club permits now cost $260.
Wilkening is also looking for members to help out with all aspects of club activities, including trail workers, groomer operators, marketing and communications.
To volunteer, or for more information on club activities as well as up-to-date trail conditions and grooming reports, refer to the Sunset Trail Riders website at: www.sunsettrailriders.com.