Snowmobile trails opening have been delayed due to the lack of snow in our region. 

John Fleming, President of the Eastman SnoPals, is not aware of any clubs in the Eastern region of the province that have any trails open. 

“We have snow cover in Lac du Bonnet that you would measure in two or three inches, which is not enough to groom a trail.” 

Fleming says most of the trails in the eastern region are in the boreal forest, meaning they are going over rocks, stumps, and ridges. 

“So we have a lot of hazards that we have to cover. And we work on the theory that we probably need a foot of snow that we then compact with our 20,000 pound groomer and drag that creates a good solid base over top of all of those hazards.” 

They are a long way away from having that level of snow, as Fleming estimates they only have a two-three-inch layer of snow on the ground in Lac du Bonnet. 

The other thing that is impacting the condition of the trails is the mild temperatures.  

“In the eastern region when we're in the boreal forest, we must cross dozens of creeks and swamps and they have to be frozen. To put our groomer on water we need 18 inches of ice, and yesterday I was ice fishing in the Winnipeg River in Lac du Bonnet, and we had eight inches of ice.” 

Fleming says the warm weather and lack of snow is disheartening to many in the snowmobiling community.  

“As a snowmobile club, no one is more disappointed than we are. We are volunteers that spend thousands of hours a year as a club getting ready for and creating snowmobile trails for recreational snowmobilers to ride on,” he says. “We're very disappointed that the season has such a slow start, but we don't have control over the weather. What we have control over is making sure that our equipment is ready to go and making sure that the trails are in the best possible condition that they could be.” 

He says trees on both sides of the trail have grown through the years, and now they are overhanging, so the trail needs to be widened. 

They have teams out with chainsaws cutting the brush and hauling it to the landfill.  

“The clubs are spending their time looking after what we have control over, and that's our equipment and our trails. We don't have control over Mother Nature. She will or will not give us snow and we don't have any control over that.” 

Right now they are doing trail prep that is nice to have, but not something they need to have. 

“What we need is a snowfall, and we would have our equipment out opening the trails that we have enough ice to be on,” he says. “If we got a foot of snow tonight, there are still trails that we could not put our groomer on. We couldn't cross the Winnipeg River or the Pinawa Channel or the Whitemouth River, so our routes would be different because we wouldn't put our big machine over that ice, but we would get those trails open as quickly as we can.” 

Fleming says the snowmobiling season has gotten increasingly shorter over the years, and snowmobilers are wanting to get out on the trails. 

“But to put this in perspective, last year we started opening trails on the 15th of January. The year before, it was the 5th of January. So, we're not really too far out of out of line.” 

He says last year was a very light snow year, and right now they are trying to make the most of a very low snow cover.  

“We can only play the cards that were dealt. If we get snow, we're ready. If we don't get snow, we continue to do our snow dance and hope for the best.” 

Fleming notes there have been seasons where the clubs in Western Manitoba did not groom at all.  

“Going back two or three years ago, there was no snow South of #1 Highway West of Portage, they didn't run the entire year. Is it going to be one of those years for us? Gosh, we hope not. But again, we have no control over that, we're ready to go whenever we have the snow.” 


With files from Carly Koop


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