Weather conditions, pandemic restrictions, and illness delayed the start for the snowmobiling season in Argenteuil and adjacent areas of Québec.
The 140 kilometre trail system managed by the Club de motoneige Le Hibou Blanc Snowmobile Club was officially open as of January 22. Illness had meant only one person was available to drive a groomer in recent days to continue the work at packing trails so they can be safely opened.
According to Michel Garneau, Marketing Manager for the Fédération des Clubs motoneigistes du Québec (FCMQ), only 42 per cent of the snowmobile trails across Québec were recently open, and it depends on each local club to manage the trail network and judge if conditions are suitable.
“It depends on the area,” said Garneau.
The lower Laurentides region did not receive as much snow as the St. Lawrence valley from the blizzard on January 17.
“We’re waiting for mother nature to deliver the goods at this point,” said Garneau.
The late start to the snowmobiling season has been one issue for snowmobile clubs, but the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions resulting from it are another.
“It presents its own set of problems,” noted Garneau.
Until January 16, there was a nightly curfew in effect across Québec. That ended night riding for snowmobilers. Limits on the number of people who may gather remain in effect and have made it impossible for snowmobilers who are not from the same household to travel together and share accommodations.
“Snowmobilers travel in packs,” Garneau commented.
“You have to be from the same household, they can’t share rooms,” he added.
According to the FCMQ, snowmobiling is a $3.3 billion industry in Québec and creates 14,000 jobs each year. However, fewer snowmobilers are staying in motels right now. Indoor dining remains prohibited, and that means snowmobiles are not parked in front of restaurants while their drivers sit inside enjoying a meal together.
Garneau said if people do plan to go snowmobiling in Québec, they should plan ahead and make sure they can enjoy their trip within the restrictions, and without surprises.
“It puts a lot of onuses on the snowmobilers before they take off,” he said.
It is a good idea to check with the snowmobile club for the region riders are planning to visit, and to make sure what services are being offered by local businesses.
Garneau was hopeful the restrictions will not last, and people can enjoy snowmobiling together again.
“I hope we can put this behind us,” he said.
As of January 20, the Eastern Ontario Snowmobile Club’s trails in the Hawkesbury area were open, along with trails in the Rigaud area of Québec.