Weather conditions, pandemic restrictions and diseases continue to delay the start of the snowmobile season in Argenteuil and adjacent areas Quebec.
Despite two snowfalls in the region in the past week, the 140-kilometer trail system, managed by Club de motoneige Le Hibou Blanc Snowmobile Club, remained officially closed on January 20th. Due to illness, only one person was available to drive a groomer in recent days to continue work on packing trails so they can be opened safely.
Laut Michel Garneau, Marketing Manager of the Federation of Snowmobile Clubs of Quebec (FCMQ), only 42 percent of snowmobile trails above Quebec have recently opened and it is up to each local association to manage the trail network and assess whether conditions are suitable.
“It depends on the area,” Garneau said.
The lower Laurentides region did not receive as much snow as the St. Lawrence Valley from the Jan. 17 blizzard.
“We’re waiting at this point for Mother Nature to deliver the goods,” Garneau said.
The late start to the snowmobile season has been an issue for snowmobile clubs, but the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions are another.
“It presents its own problems,” Garneau noted.
A night-time curfew was in effect across the city until January 16 Quebec. This ended the night drive for snowmobilers. Limits on the number of people who can gather remain in place and have made it impossible for snowmobilers who are not from the same household to travel together and share accommodation.
“Snowmobilers travel in packs,” commented Garneau.
“They must be from the same household, they cannot share rooms,” he added.
According to FCMQ, snowmobiling is a $3.3 billion industry Quebec and creates 14,000 jobs annually. However, fewer snowmobilers are currently staying in motels. Indoor dining remains banned, and that means snowmobiles won’t be parked outside restaurants while their drivers sit inside and eat together.
Garneau said if people are planning to snowmobile in Quebec, they should plan ahead and make sure they can enjoy their trip within the restrictions and without surprises.
“It presents a lot of burdens for snowmobilers before they take off,” he said.
It’s a good idea to check with the snowmobile club for the area riders plan to visit and to make sure what services are offered by local companies.
Garneau was confident the restrictions will not last and people will be able to snowmobile together again.
“I hope we can put this behind us,” he said.
On January 20, the Eastern Ontario Snowmobile Club’s trails remained closed, but the club continued to prepare the network for the opening.