Enjoying the snow in Baddeck
The large dumps of snow that blanketed the province and wreaked havoc on snow removal budgets this winter created great conditions for snowmobiling.
“I’ve been snowmobiling since the 1960s and I can’t honestly remember a season like this,” said Stan Slack, president of the Snowmobilers Association of Nova Scotia (SANS). “It was a little late starting, but (in) mid-April groomers are still operating and people are still snowmobiling. This has been province-wide.”
Slack said while northern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton typically enjoy good snowmobile seasons, this past winter’s snowfall amounts resulted in ideal conditions everywhere.
“In some of the areas where they usually don’t get as much snow it can be sometimes discouraging working to prepare the trails and waiting to start the season, but those people were very well rewarded this year,” Slack said. “Conditions were consistent and it really gives them a boost.”
The flip side to all that snow is that volunteers have had to clock many extra hours this season. In 2010 grooming operators logged 7,200 hours, a record breaking number.
Although the final numbers have yet to come in and because many groomers are still out working on the trails, Slack expects this winter’s number of overall volunteer hours to approach at least 10,000.
“That’s just grooming work. That’s not work on fixing a bridge or picking up brush or doing anything else,” he said.
The challenge for grooming operators was keeping the trails groomed following significant back-to-back storms.
“You can only groom at a six to eight mile per hour speed. We wouldn’t have all the trails groomed sometimes and we’d have another snowfall,” Slack said. “The biggest challenge was keeping them all groomed. It could be a full week or more getting opened, then there’d be another dump of snow. Challenging for the grooming operators, but they love it.”
The association’s membership includes 21 clubs and more than 4,300 km of trail. About 80 per cent of that is groomed on a regular basis.
SANS sells an average of 2,700 family memberships each season, which amounts to about 4,000 members.
Slack said although they don’t yet have the numbers, this winter’s snow conditions have definitely heightened interest in snowmobiling. He said member clubs are reporting the sale of more permits this year.
“This season we’ve seen a number of new people, people that had stepped away from it or are coming back to it,” he said. “Some may have had a snowmobile in the garage for the last seven or eight years and didn’t use it.”
Snowmobile dealers throughout the province have also benefitted from the renewed interest in the sport due to ideal snow conditions. Slack said inventory has been low for both new and used machines.
“Manufacturers give total combined sales and over the last two years sales increased in Nova Scotia, with an increase last year of 33 per cent,” he said. “We expect that number to be even higher this year.”
This builds on other good news. Slack said their youth program has resulted in far more youths participating in club functions. The number of females involved in the sport has also increased substantially in the last few years.
“It has been a phenomenal winter,” he said. “We’d also like to thank the private landowners who allow us access to their land.”