Reflections of the winter that wasn't
For many of us here in Ontario, March is that one month of the year that we all have mixed feelings about. For many, it feels like the end of the era. The end of snowmobile season is like saying goodbye to a cherished friend, and the act of storing a snowmobile for the summer season is a somber one. The countdown clock restarts, and the summer is quickly booked with activities to keep our mind off of what we truly want to think about; next winter.
This year felt a little different, though. With the poor winter season in Ontario, disgruntled die-hard sled heads were a bit put off by the winter weather, or lack thereof. While some were able to get out riding on OFSC trails and also off-trail, others were barely able to break in their new sleds. The varying temperatures and conditions were enough to drive many of us crazy. There wasn’t enough snow to snowmobile too far or too often, and yet it was too cold to ride motorcycles. So, what is an Ontario sledder to do? The conundrum this year got real. Like really real. Us Ontarians had to reach deep inside ourselves to pull out an inner strength while Mother Nature toyed with our emotions. Every time the weather network announced a winter warning, we excitedly prepared only to be disappointed time and time again.
Of course there were periods of time that Ontario had snow to play in. The further north you traveled, the better the trails and conditions. My Northern friends made sure to post lots of pictures to remind us southern Ontarians what we were missing. Fortunately, I made it up to Huntsville area for a mid-winter trip with the folks from Backcountry Tours, and also made it out west for an epic snowmobile adventure with She Shreds Mountain Adventures in Pemberton, BC. The ultimate end of winter trip was scheduled for early-March in Wawa, as they had the best powder in the province this year. Of course, given my luck, conditions quickly declined the week before our trip, so we made the decision to reschedule for next season. Looks like I’ll have to wait another year to discover the epic backcountry riding the area offers. Something tells me this will be worth the wait!
Despite the winter we had, the passion for this sport brought many of us together. Last weekend, I found myself hanging out with family and friends for an impromptu pow wow to chat about our passion for snowmobiling and good times. I had asked some people to come over to record a podcast about their love of snowmobiles. I was sorely mistaken when I thought that we would just chat for 45 minutes or so and then part ways and continue on with our day. The pow wow turned into over three hours of reminiscing, talking about the good old days, and the season we barely had. My uncle shared how he has been riding sleds for 50 years now, my Dad and our family friend Chris shared stories of a recent trip riding near Sudbury. Then my 84-year old grandma showed up and things got real. Her love and passion for snowmobiles and motorcycles brought back great memories as she reminisced about some of the trips she has been on over the years. My mom was there too, and talked about being stuck in the great blizzard of ’77 where my Dad had to come pick her up on a sled at work because she wasn’t able to leave.
In the middle of a basement, somewhere in Southern Ontario, surrounded my family and friends, we mourned the winter we never had, reminisced about the past, laughed and joked, and best of all, we talked about our plans for next season. Uncle Tim wants to ride the RAP tour around Algonquin, and dad hopes Chris will invite him up to their cottage again. Mom hopes dad will upgrade his sleds, and above everything else, we all hope it will snow… a lot.
The theme from this random family meeting was clear. We love snowmobiles. It was that simple – the lifestyle has brought so much joy and great memories over the years. Snowmobiles have been more than a piece of metal and plastic sitting in the garage; they represent that feeling of freedom, togetherness and love, all wrapped up into a nice package. Talking about plans for next year to just ride, wherever, whenever and with whomever, was enough to reenergize us and excite us for what is to come. That’s the beauty of snowmobiling – the invitation is always open, as long as the conditions are good. If they aren’t, then we’ll still find a way to incorporate snowmobiling into our lives somehow.
And as for Mother Nature, well, she’s still trying to make up for the not so great season. As I sit here typing, updates flash before my eyes on social media of rain, snow and ice warnings across the province. Now that spring is here, winter is battling for the final say before we give in to the warm weather, green grass and blue skies. It almost feels like that long lost relative that is trying to make amends. So is it too little, too late to make up for past discretions? Probably. But like true love, we forgive, forget, and move forward with our lives in anticipation of the great times to come.
Yes, Mother Nature, you are forgiven, we still love you, and look forward to your cold embrace next year. As one door closes, another opens. With that sentiment in mind, I prepare to trade two skis for two wheels, and start to wrap my head around the upcoming motorcycle season, which is sure to be a great one.