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Another mild winter means snowmobile riders have two options: Go up north or keep it locked away

Reference: CTV News

With the exception of some light flurries and a late December winter storm, this winter season has brought with it very little snowfall in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent. While that is a good thing for those who dread waking up in the morning to shovel their driveways, the mild weather is creating challenges for snowmobile riders.

“It's not like it was 20 to 30 years ago when we used to have the big Stoney Point Carnival out in the lake that would draw hundreds of people. We had three to four feet of ice back then. Now, we've got a whole bunch of nothing,” said Mike Simard who sits on the board of directors for the Stoney Point Sportsmen’s Club.

He said back then, it was common to see droves of people head toward Lake St. Clair to go skating, partake in ice fishing or ride their snowmobiles.

However, that has changed in recent years, as longer stretches of mild conditions start to become more common throughout the winter. The result is locals who ride snowmobiles left with two options: take it to a region where snowfall is more common or keep it locked away and hope for better conditions next year.

Simard said he has lived along Lake St. Clair for more than four decades and recalls seeing droves of “nonstop vehicles” by the lake every winter.

“Cars, trucks, you name [it]. You had the ice and you had the snow to get out there and play. Now, it's just non-existent,” said Simard, adding the drop-off of people enjoying winter activities around the lake started to become noticeable a few years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year is bad. Last year was bad. I think, maybe four years ago before COVID, we had probably two days to get on the lake and snowmobile and that was about it,” he said.

The milder weather has also changed how snowmobile riders connect with one another. Next month, the club will host an expo called the Vintage Snowmobile Show and Swap. The idea for the event came from Scott Johnston who has 40 years of snowmobile-riding experience.

Before moving to Essex County in 2017, Johnston lived in parts of central and northern Ontario. He said in those regions, snowmobile expos would include a group ride.

But due to the mild winters that Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent have been experiencing in recent years, Johnston said incorporating a group ride for the Stoney Point expo is far too risky.

“You never know what's going to happen with the winter here. We don’t want the event to be weather-dependent. So, we're not going to schedule a vintage ride at all. Instead, it's just going to be a show where spectators can come and look at snowmobiles from the past,” said Johnston.

“There'll be displays in the yard of the Stoney Point Sportsmen's Club and we've also elected to have some displays inside. That way, no matter what the weather, there will be snowmobiles, parts and swap meet items that attendees can look at inside the building,” he added.

Johnston encourages anyone looking for a place to ride their snowmobile to check out the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs’ trail maps guide.

As for Simard, he is just hoping for more snow next winter.

“Other than that, snowmobiles are going to stay put unless you want to travel north for four to six hours,” said Simard. “I used to do that but I don't do that anymore.”

The Vintage Snowmobile Show and Swap is scheduled for Feb. 4 from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Stoney Point Sportsmen’s Club... Read More