Snowmobile season kicks off weeks behind schedule

Snowmobile season is underway in parts of Simcoe County.

According to Mid Ontario Snowmobile Trails, about 80 per cent of the trails are now open after several snowstorms hit the region.

"Normally, we get snow between Christmas and New Year's and we can snowmobile in early January. Now we're getting into late January we're finally getting going," said Kevin Hagen the manager of Mid Ontario Snowmobile Trails.

Hagen noted that the region has around 1,000 km of trails and is urging people to stay on approved and open trails and not veer off onto private property.

"Just take it easy on the trail at this time," said Hagen.

A message echoed by the Ontario Provincial Police, who have reported several recent collisions and one fatality in Georgian Bay last week.

"We need riders on those trails only when they are open and when you are on those trails, be mindful the speed limit is 50 km/h," said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt last week.

As eager Simcoe County brush off their snowmobiles and hit the trails, those in the Muskoka region might have to wait.

Due to the lack of snow to cover its unique terrain, communities like Gravenhurst are left with less than 10 per cent of its trails open as of Jan. 23.

"We're just in desperate need for some snow right now," said Nunzio Iacobellis, the president of Snowcrest Riders Snowmobile Club in Gravenhurst.

Iacobellis says the late start to the snowmobile season is impacting many area businesses, including hotels, gas stations, and restaurants.

"I encourage the sledders once the trails are available to support local," said Iacobellis.

Ciara Faulkner owns and operates a pub near one of Gravenhurst's snowmobile trails.

She says due to the lack of riders and the ongoing restrictions, she has lost around 50 per cent of her winter business,

"Sometimes February can be busier than July," said Faulkner, the owner of Frosty Pint Pub.

"It's just devastating, and you just try to survive and roll with the punches, and you really hope we can open up hopefully in February and the snow keeps coming and they open the trails."

The Gravenhurst trails could soon be getting some help from Mother Nature.

On Monday, Environment Canada says there is a 30 per cent chance of flurries in the morning and afternoon. That probability will rise to 60 per cent over night.

The forecast also shows a chance of more snow later in the week.