The Eastman SnoPals haven't been able to open trails even once this season, and at this point, aren't sure if they will be able to open them at all this year. 

To officially open a Snowman trail, crews must ensure the trail is signed, safe, and groomed.  

The Eastman SnoPals were never in the position that they could declare the trails groomed and safe, so they never did have them open this year. 

John Fleming, President of the Eastman SnoPals, says that earlier this season, the trails were signed, and crews were able to pack the snow into a solid base. 

“But in the packing, it was very clear that there was not enough snow on the ground to safely groom a trail,” he says. “When we put the blades down on our groomer, they're much like the blades on the grater on the highway. They are six inches in height. So if we put them down, we're digging in six inches.” 

He says that this year they never had six inches of snow packed on the trail. 

“Which means if we use the blades to groom the snow, we're digging up roots and rocks and damaging our equipment.” 

Fleming says he is unsure if trails will open at all this season. 

“Our executive talks about that every day. There's no one more disappointed about our trail conditions than the volunteers and the members of the club who spend hundreds if not thousands of hours signing and getting them ready.” 

He says this last week of high temperatures has erased virtually all of their hard work. 

“What was there before is gone, we're looking at grass and dirt on our trails.” 

They are in need of cold temperatures, which are luckily in the forecast next week. And then they need about a foot of snow to pack and groom. 

Fleming adds that the mild temperatures have degraded their swamps, creeks, and rivers. 

“We build snow bridges over them, so now we have to go back out and check all of our ice conditions before we can even think of putting our groomer back onto those trails.” 

He says that seeing grass on the ground is disappointing. 

“I look in my backyard, what was six or eight inches of snow in my backyard is now grass in many spots. And it's soft, wet snow because it has so much moisture in it now, you walk in it and you’re crushing it to nothing.” 

Some club members were checking out fields between Seven Sisters and Whitemouth, and informed Fleming that all the snow has melted.

“Those are cultivated fields, and they're now black, and all of our signs are all laying flat in the mud.” 

If they get snowfall, the volunteers will have a lot of work to do all over again.

“We would have to go back out and re-sign all those sections of trail, and then make sure that they are safe for our members and our equipment. And then if that's the case, then we would start trying to pack them and groom them so that we could get a week or two or maybe three out of the season.” 

Fleming says not being able to open up the trails isn’t only disappointing for recreational reasons, but it also has a huge impact on funding. 

“Clubs have a certain set of fixed expenses. We pay insurance on our equipment whether we groom trails or not, we pay our hydro bill on our building whether we groom or not,” he says. “We haven't spent a lot of money on diesel fuel, but we spent money buying new signs and buying new signposts.” 

Clubs have a certain amount of fixed expenses, and if they don’t groom, their payout is minimal. 

There's a possibility that clubs could be hurting financially when they're not able to groom for a season, because their income is generated per kilometer groomed. 

“There is a safety-net built into the Snoman policy that if you don't groom for a year, you would get a payment that would be equivalent to if you had groomed your circuit twice,” he says. “So that does provide some income for clubs, but many clubs, that may not be sufficient to pay all of those fixed expenses.” 

Although it is likely to be a money-losing year for the Eastman SnoPals, they will still have enough funds to run next year. 

“We'll be financially able to move forward for next year, I just hope that all of our other neighboring clubs, there's 53 clubs in the province, I hope that they are all financially secure enough that this bad year that Mother Nature has dealt us won't impact us for next year.”