Sledding season revs up
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | February 11, 2015
The year's snowmobiling season is starting to gain momentum in the Haliburton Highlands.
"The traffic in Haliburton has been fantastic," said Aaron McWilliams, president of the Haliburton County Snowmobile Association (HCSA), in a recent phone interview. "I know we've had comments from the local businesses."
About three weeks ago, a majority of the 370 kilometres of the county's groomed trails were open with limited ability, meaning they were not yet on a regular grooming schedule. As of Jan. 22, 19 out of 23 trails were marked as available, meaning that trails are groomed and available for snowmobiling. One trail – Top B to Tall Pines Trails – is closed for the year due to logging.
"We're trying to keep the main arteries between the townships open so we can help generate more business for the townships," said McWilliams.
Although it may seem as if there is plenty of white stuff on the ground, McWilliams explained that it's fluffy snow that gets compacted down by a groomer.
"Even though we had a good 14 inches of it [snow], when you compress and pack it on the trail it [turns into] about four to six inches," he said.
In recent weeks, volunteers have been working hard to pack down what they can and staking the lakes for riders, said McWilliams.
As a not-for-profit organization, the HCSA heavily relies on volunteers. The group currently has about 20 individuals who do everything from clearing trails to handling paperwork.
"We could always use more," he said.
McWilliams said permit sales are up this year for District 6, an area that encompasses Haliburton County and several nearby communities.
"We've improved on our sales from last year and we're just hoping to make them better."
McWilliams was unable to provide current statistics for the club, but said that based on the information he's received 90,000 Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) permits have been sold in the district so far. The OFSC's target this season is 100,000.
He believes that many local riders took advantage of an early bird sale, which allowed them to save $80 before Nov. 1.
"A lot of our ridership took advantage of the savings," he said, adding that last year's successful snowmobiling season has also been a boon to the current year.
The OFSC is the coordinating body for organized snowmobiling in the province. According to the not-for-profit association's website, funds collected from the sale of permits helps pay for "trail operations of local snowmobile clubs and their provincial organization."
While gas prices have plummeted in recent months, McWilliams doesn't see that factoring in to traffic on the trails.
"Because we don't have enough snow yet to open all the trails, I don't really see that fuel has driven the ridership up."
McWilliams pointed out that the HCSA was successful in receiving several government grants for trail improvements and is in the process of completing more funding applications for next year.
He's encouraging all snowmobilers to give the local trails a try.
"I just want to remind people to be safe and have fun," he said.
For current trail conditions or for information on how to volunteer visit hcsa.ca.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.