Go Ride Ontario!
The world's top snowmobile destination
Story by Craig Nicholson, The Intrepid Snowmobiler, Oct 13, 2010
Snowmobilers typically ride a whopping 150 million collective kilometres (99 million miles) here every season. They recognize a great thing when they see it. So those in search of the ultimate trail riding experience need look no farther than Ontario, because thereís no place like this.
This Canadian province delivers over 34,000 kilometres (21,000 miles) of maintained snowmobile trails, the worldís largest recreational trail network. Better yet, the entire system is totally integrated and inter-connected. So regardless of where you enter, you can ride almost anywhere in the Ontario snowbelt by trail, without interruption. Best of all, Ontario is so big that its snowmobile trails are rarely congested. In fact, you can ride all day in many regions without seeing any other traffic. Talk about having the place to yourself!
Whatís more, these world-class trails connect most snowbelt communities and lead to every service and amenity a snowmobiler needs, from lodgings and restaurants to gas stations and sled dealers. The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) represents the 232 community-based clubs that maintain these trails. Altogether, these clubs operate a 302-unit fleet of industrial grooming equipment that logs upwards of 100,000 hours in a typical season, while using more than a million litres of fuel. Thatís a pile of groomers, working the OFSC system, just for you!
Snowmobiling is big business in Ontario. With an annual economic impact of more than $1 billion, itís the winter mainstay for many communities and businesses. And that vested interest means thereís lots of support: during last season, total investment in new and improved snowmobile trail infrastructure topped $6.5 million, with another $3 million on the way this season. These are dollars over and above the $20 million or so clubs spend on trail operations to keep the system in top-notch shape all winter long. All of this high finance boils down to one essential message for snowmobilers: delivering great trails day in and day out is the mandate in Ontario. So many folks depend on snowmobiling tourism for their livelihood that you can depend on Ontario for the best riding anywhere.
So what about snow? Ontario is the heart of the Great White North and that means reliable snow and plenty of it. Favourably positioned from its geography, Ontario benefits from cold temperatures, lake effect snow, multiple winter storms and deep frost. This sled-friendly weather provides a snowmobile season that usually stretches from early January to late March, with some northern areas running from Christmas even into early April. So Ontario has both ample snow and great season length, just the combo riders need for consistently great sledding.
As a matter of fact, the OFSC is so snow confident that buying a 2011 Seasonal permit early isnít a gamble anymore. If it snows, you can ride great trails. If it doesnít snow, you can collect a $200 payout. Thatís right, for the first time anywhere in international snowmobiling community, the OFSC has arranged for its participating early Seasonal Permit buyers to enjoy a Snow Guarantee.
Hereís how it works. Buy your 2011 Seasonal Permit on or before December 1, 2010 and sign up for OFSC member benefits at the same time. Then go online on or before December 15, 2010 and buy your Snow Guarantee for $10 (taxes included). If it snows 31 centimetres or less at the Environment Canada measuring station at Shanty Bay Airport, near Barrie, Ontario, between December 25, 2010 and March 15, 2011, Snow Guarantee pays you $200. Thatís one sweet deal!
Speaking of permits, you need one to ride OFSC trails. Most snowmobilers choose the Seasonal Permit, which allows full access to open OFSC trails at any time and any place, plus many member benefits. The regular fee is $250 (taxes in), but you can save $50 by purchasing early (on or before Dec. 1). This is the only permit available to buy online and the only one that qualifies for the new Snow Guarantee.
Riders who own sleds 15 years or older (1996 and back) can buy a Classic Permit for $125 (taxes in). The Classic also allows full access to open OFSC trails at any time and any place, plus many member benefits, but its sale is limited to only certain outlets because proof of sled ownership is required upfront. Visit http://www.ofsc.on.ca/ to find out more, including Classic Permit selling locations.
Itís the law in Ontario to have and display a valid trail permit on OFSC trails, subject to a fine of up to $1,000 ó and thatís a good motivation to buy. But the best reason to buy a Seasonal or Classic Permit is to do your part to help support club grooming operations. Permit revenue is their only source of funding for grooming, so if riders want it to keep it as smooth as possible, buying a trail permit is the way. Besides, your trail permit is also your passport to riding the worldís best snowmobile trails in the most snowmobile-friendly place imaginable ó and it doesnít get any better than that!