As Ottawa continues to dig itself out from under this week's massive snowfall, groomers at Gatineau Park are working to prepare the trails for snowshoers and skiers.
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"We're all breathing a sigh of relief here," said Louis-René Sénéchal, the National Capital Commission's senior co-ordinator of interpretation and information programs.
"It seems that finally, after weeks and weeks of waiting, the planets are aligned and we should have some good conditions to officially launch the season here in Gatineau Park."
Sénéchal said this one massive snow dump has left nearly enough snow to create a good base layer and keep groomers from pulling up gravel or exposing asphalt during maintenance.
He said many trails will be ready before this weekend.
Snowmobile trails still dangerous
At the same time, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs is urging snowmobilers to hold off on their first ride of the season until trail conditions improve.
"We've got a whack of snow, but the ground is still warm. There's no base there," said Craig Nicholson, a spokesperson for the organization.
"If people were to try to go out, they're taking some dangers in their hands because there's a whole lot of irregularities on the bare ground."
Nicholson said the ground needs to be cold enough to freeze the boggy and swampy areas in the region and hard enough to support to weight of five- to seven-tonne grooming machines.
"And there's rocks and stumps that aren't covered and there's no base to protect the machine from those obstacles."
Time to prepare
Nicholson encourages snowmobilers to take this time to check on their machines to make sure they are running safely and to ensure they have a first aid kit, a survival kit and a tow cable.
'There's rocks and stumps that aren't covered and there's no base to protect the machine.' - Craig Nicholson, Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs
"As much as everybody is eager now to get out, and I'm as eager as anyone else, you've got to be really careful where you go," he said.
According to Nicholson, it might seem like this is a particularly late start to the season, but the past two winters have been much colder than usual.
He anticipates the trails will to be safe by the middle of January and suggests riders check on the status of trails in their area by using his organization's online map before heading out.