While many people are enjoying the effects “El Nino” has had in creating unseasonably mild weather here in Northwestern Ontario so far this winter, those associated with snowmobiling clubs aren’t so happy.
In fact, the lack of snowfall and warm weather forced the 450-member Sunset Country Snowmobile Club to cancel its first run of the season, originally slated for last weekend.
“Our club ride was cancelled last weekend and right now our poker ride for Jan. 10 won’t go if the weather doesn’t begin to co-operate,” club president Jerry Darvell warned Monday morning.
“Right now, everything is put on hold because we don’t have any snow so we haven’t been doing anything," he added. "[And] I talked to the guys in Emo and they’re doing the same thing.”
Darvell said at this time last year, snowmobilers already had been out on the trails for almost a month.
Tom Beck, who looks after the grooming and trail co-ordination for the local club, said they haven’t had a chance to properly groom the trails. And he added it’s tough to even guess when drivers will get a chance to ride for the first time this season.
“It totally depends on the weather," he stressed. ”We’d need about another eight inches of new, good heavy snow to be able to start grooming.
“But even when we get that, if we don’t get any cold weather, the ice won’t be any good," he noted. "The ice is very thin out there.”
Beck, also co-owner of Pinewood Sports here, said the club was expecting to equal last year’s number of trail permits sold (around 600) but stressed sales have been slowed by the unseasonal weather.
“You can appreciate people not buying them if they can’t ride,” he reasoned.
But it isn’t just local snowmobilers who are bemoaning the strange weather this winter. The lack of snowmobiling also is having an impact on the local economy.
In fact, according to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers’ Association fact book, snowmobilers spend $6 billion on the sport each year on equipment, clothing accessories, and snowmobiling vacations.
Paul Noonan, co-owner of La Place Rendez-Vous here said although they haven’t experienced a drop-off as yet, he did admit they may start see a decrease in business after Christmas.
“We haven’t seen a drop-off yet because we don’t get that [snowmobile] traffic until January,” he noted.
But David Kaemingh, co-owner of T.J. Kaemingh & Sons Ltd. in Emo, said the late start definitely will affect him—and the tourists camps he supplies gas to.
“Already we’re about two or three weeks behind where guys aren’t buying the gas when they go out so it’s going to affect the tourist camps,” said Kaemingh, who’s also a member of the Borderland Snowmobile Club in Emo.
“Where [tourists camps] would normally re-order gas by Christmas, they now may not have to,” he added.
“And it will also affect places that sell the machines because people won’t be needing new ones if they’re not using the ones they already have,” he said.
Glenn Witherspoon, owner of Witherspoon's One Stop Gas & Propane, said he's experiencing first-hand the effects the warm weather has had on his business.
“It's affected us big time. We're geared in this country for the winter weather during [November through March] but snowmobilers just aren't buying gas,” said Witherspoon.
“Everyone likes the nice weather but it has affected us [financially] here.”