SUDBURY -- Ever since the first big snowfall, snowmobilers in northern Ontario have been eager to hit the trails.

Before any trails in the region open, officials said temperatures need to stay consistently cold for a few more weeks, and some more snow would help, too.

Due to COVID-19, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs was unsure whether there would be a sledding season.

After further discussion with the government and 34 health units, the trails in the province are now being groomed in preparation for the season.

One thing the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs is asking riders to do is to sled locally this year and to follow all health unit guidelines.

The federation has called the new safety protocols 'Flex Trails.'

“Flex Trails is based on the current public health unit recommendations for your area -- it will determine where you can ride and whether or not you can ride within your area or adjoining areas,” said Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs president Murray Baker.

“So it’s a way for us to follow the government and public health units.”

Trails will be open

Even though the north is heading into a 14-day lockdown starting Dec. 26, snowmobiling trails will be open, weather permitting.

“The idea is just to encourage people to stay in their unit, and ride there and respect the wishes,” said Baker.

“We know the importance of getting outside, mental health, (and) snowmobiling is one of those things. So we are doing what we can to make sure we have a place to ride that’s safe.”

Officials are encouraging riders to not make any stops while on trails, and to travel in small groups. They’re also reminding people that restaurants and washrooms may not be open, so plan ahead.

“Bring a mask, bring a lunch, be aware maybe not all rest stops and restaurants will be open. Just try to have fun and relieve some stress,” said Sudbury Trail Plan Association president Joel Brosseau.

Officials are also encouraging people on the trails to follow physical distancing guidelines.

“We have a new promotion out it’s called ‘Snow-cial’ distancing,” said Baker. “Stay one sled apart … Keep your groups down in the safe numbers. Gatherings are 10 outdoors right now, so that’s who should be riding.”

Officials told CTV News trails in the north are in the process of being groomed and should be open within the next couple of weeks.