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North Bay club says this is the worst year ever for snowmobiling

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It’s been a rough winter for snowmobilers who can’t ride their machines on the trail system due to mild weather

In fact, this year has been historically bad, said the North Bay Snowmobile Club.

“This is the toughest season on record across the province for snowmobiling,” said club spokesman Shawn Flindall.

At the mercy of this unusually mild winter, trails from Mattawa to Sault Ste. Marie along the Highway 17 corridor were only used for a little more than a week the entire season.

The blast of winter weather this week gave the snowmobile club some hope the season can still be salvaged. But Flindall said trails still need another foot to a foot and a half of snow before the trails can be properly groomed.

“Most trails haven’t opened at all this season. Our swamps are open. Our creeks are open,” Flindall said.

It’s been a rough winter for snowmobilers who can’t ride their machines on the trail system due to mild weather In fact, this year has been historically bad, said the North Bay Snowmobile Club. (Eric Taschner/CTV News)

“We’re still not even able to get groomers moving yet. We need some colder weather and more snow.”

Snowmobiling in Ontario is a $3.3 billion industry and it is a significant economic driver in northern Ontario communities. Restaurants and campgrounds that rely on travelling sledders have felt the hit as well.

“For a destination that has historically has had colder temperatures and a lot more snow, it’s certainly had an impact on them,” said Tourism North Bay executive director Tanya Bedard.

“We don’t have specific data though to be able to back that up on occupancy at this time.”

The Tomiko Restaurant on Highway 11 between North Bay and Temagami took to Facebook on Feb. 5 calling for support from diners and the community.

“The snowmobile season, upon which many small businesses in our area rely, is facing unprecedented delays, to the point where cancellation looms as a real possibility,” the restaurant wrote.

It’s been a rough winter for snowmobilers who can’t ride their machines on the trail system due to mild weather In fact, this year has been historically bad, said the North Bay Snowmobile Club. (Eric Taschner/CTV News)

“Like so many others, The Tomiko counts on the energy and activity of this season to sustain us throughout the year. Without it, we face an uncertain future. However, we refuse to go quietly into the night, and instead, we turn to our incredible community for help.”

At Idylltyme Sports & Marine, staff sell snowmobile parts and gear and they do repairs. General manager Kyle Van Altena said this season is in stark contrast to the COVID-19 pandemic, when interest in snowmobiling really took off.

“It’s been a little bit slow this season for service and accessories,” he said.

“It’s been a rough go for a lot of people. It’s a costly sport and when you don’t get to use it, it hurts.”

The forecast has colder overnight temperatures and some flurries on the horizon. Flindall can only hope it will be enough to get trails ready before March 1 when temperatures normally start to increase and the snow begins to melt.

“When things start to warm up, we don’t have a base to work with. We’re optimistic but realistic,” he said.

“We’re certainly not throwing in the towel. We’re ready to go still.”

Flindall is also reminding snowmobilers to make safety a top priority and is encouraging snowmobilers to stay off lakes and rivers as ice can not always be trusted.

To view the status of trail conditions, click here.

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