Tips on how not to die on a snowmobile in Parry Sound, Almaguin

·4 min read

With snowmobiles in high demand, there may be a lot of newcomers to the winter sport, which is why safety on the trails is always important.

Out alone on the pristine waterfront in the McKellar area, Morely Haskim has volunteered with the Dun Ahmic Snowriders for over 30 years.

He suggests that people educate themselves first by going online to mto.gov.on.ca where there is a snowmobile safety category or the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club’s website where there are six courses someone can take online.

“As far as anybody starting out, there’s the obvious things such as wearing proper gear: helmet, snowmobile suit and boots,” said Haskim. “And usually try to snowmobile with somebody else — don’t go alone.”

Another important tool for snowmobiling safety is making sure to check the trails on the interactive trail map provided by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club’s website.

“Do your own homework before you get out there,” said Haskin. “You’re in control of your own destination even though the clubs are doing the best they can to make sure all the trails are safe and open.”

Safety on the trails is important because it can be life threatening and Haskim advised that snowmobilers shouldn’t be speeding.

“We have a lot of families out there now with their young kids on the machine with them and if they meet a bunch of people racing it may not end up being the best situation,” he said.

The speed limit on most trails is 50 km/hour.

While there are risks that come with snowmobiling, Haskim says his favourite thing about it is volunteering on the trails.

“I used to be a real snowmobiler,” he said with a laugh. “I would go out in big groups back years ago and have pretty much snowmobiled everywhere around our area but eventually I phased out of personally snowmobiling.”

Now, he tries to get out two times a week to groom, stake or inspect trails.

“I report our trail conditions to our district who then puts the condition of the trails on the interactive trail guide.”

Out along the Hwy. 522 corridor, Matthew Wagenaar, who manages the popular snowmobiling Instagram page The Daily Doo with his friends, rides the Argyle Riders trails.

“The place I stay is right off the C105D trail,” Wagenaar said. “A large portion of that trail is crown land. So, early in the winter season, myself and a few friends go up and try to clean up the trail by cutting up trees and getting them off the trail.”

When it comes to snowmobile safety, Wagenaar said that the most important thing he would say to newcomers is to know your machine.

“Snowmobiles don’t behave like most other off-road vehicles,” he said. “Get familiar with the sled by riding but riding with added caution.”

However, the biggest risk, according to Wagenaar, who does a lot of backcountry riding as well, is riding over open water.

“(You) could go through the ice but that can be easily taken care of by waiting until you have over eight inches of ice and also knowing where the open water is,” he said.

But, echoing Haskim in McKellar, the good times are worth it.

“The best part is the time spent in nature with friends — the awesome part about Port Loring is it truly is God’s country up there,” he said. “There’s nothing like waking up and seeing a fresh couple of inches of snow on the sled, heading out at dawn and watching the snow-covered trees get hit by the first sun rays.”

“Though safety is important at work and at play,” he said. “We all have someone we want to go home to.”

Story behind the story: With snowmobile sales through the roof and snowmobile clubs anticipating new riders on the trail, our reporter wanted to find out the best safety tips for new and seasoned sledders. So, she reached out to local club volunteers and trail enthusiasts to find out what the best practices for snowmobiling the Parry Sound and Almaguin trails were.

​Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star