Choosing an Ontario Snowmobiling Destination
Plan the snowmobiling trip of a lifetime
Story by Craig Nicholson, The Intrepid Snowmobiler, Dec 08, 2010
Ontario snowmobiling has the bragging rights to the world’s largest recreational trail system. But if one wants to go ride here, where do you start? Getting a handle on 34,000 kIlometres (21,000 miles) of trails can be intimidating for anyone, be they residents of Ontario or visitors. As with any challenge, breaking it down into manageable pieces works best.
First, you may want to familiarize yourself with what Ontario has to offer. At this Ontario tourism link, you’ll find lots of adventure possibilities, ride descriptions and personal testimonials to peak your interest. Ontario snowmobile clubs, volunteers and experienced riders provide and update this information regularly, so it’s down-to-earth, accessible and real. Plus, by following included hyperlinks, you can discover much, much more!
Before picking a destination, decide how much time you have for your ride (including trailering hours). Ontario has many long weekend getaway rides or multi-day saddlebag tours for your snowmobiling pleasure, but knowing your available time will help you determine where to start.
Another function of time is when you want to ride. February being the sweet spot, and generally, you’re good to ride in most OFSC districts from the last week of January until the first week of March. If you want to ride earlier or later than that, take a look first at Districts 11 through 17. By the end of March, decent spring riding is still likely in some parts of Districts 14 through 17.
Use your “how long” and “when” answers to help pick a specific riding area. Ontario riding occurs in the 17 districts of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC). As the governing body for sledding in Ontario, the OFSC has established provincial guidelines for trail layout, grooming, signage, mapping and marking. So no matter where you choose to ride in Ontario, the goal is to provide consistently groomed trails that interconnect and access necessary services. Signage and markings should be uniform no matter where you go. Yes, terrain, snow conditions and degree of remoteness may vary from district to district, but you can’t go wrong narrowing your choice of where to start down to one district destination.
For example, if it’s rugged Canadian Shield riding you’re after, good choices would include Districts 12, 13 and 16. To experience Francophone culture, focus on Districts 1 or 15. Farm country adventure beckons in Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 9 and 14, while Ontario’s lake lands are prominent in Districts 2, 7, 6, 10, 11 and 17. If wide-open trails and big distances are your thing, take a gander at Districts 14, 15, 16 and 17. For a ride through Ontario’s more populated heartland, check out Districts 1 through 9. Of course, every OFSC district offers its own special variety of riding options and in many you can find components of all the choices outlined above. So choose an area by its reputation, proximity to your home or border crossing, predominant riding style or whatever your inclination.
Now, zero in to explore your selected destination’s possibilities on the new OFSC Interactive Trail Guide. Here, you can see, zoom in on, and download the routing, trails, towns and connections that make best sense for you. You can buy the OFSC’s new iSnowMobile App to load the info onto your smart phone. You can also download routable digital data for your GPS unit, and as your departure date gets closer, you can check out the OFSC’s new visual trail status reports for the latest color-coded updates on the trails you are planning to ride. Meanwhile, go online to download or order your 2011 Snowmobile Tour Planner (for snowbelt lodgings and much more) and to order a paper trail guide from your district of choice (which will contain helpful ads from snowmobile-friendly accommodations, restaurants, dealers and gas stations).
Many OFSC districts promote touring loops either within their own district or shared by several districts. Usually, these are depicted on their paper trail guides, and in some cases, on their websites. A complete overview list of popular tours is also available online. The beauty of these existing tour loops is that they take much of the guesswork out of the equation. They are laid out with pre-defined, available services en route; day-ride distances that are measured and doable; and lodgings that welcome those doing the loop ride. Some, like the famous R.A.P. Tour, even have special trail signage to mark your way.
All of the information listed above will help you select your destination, a defined staging point, exact route, overnight stops and sights to see or places to visit in Ontario. Now that 34,000+ kilometre trail system isn’t so daunting, is it? And in doing your research, you’ve learned one other very important fact about snowmobiling in Ontario: there’s so much more to see! So enjoy the tour this article may have helped you plan, knowing full well that to continue to experience the best snowmobiling anywhere, you’re going to have to go ride in Ontario each and every winter!