Snowmobilers warned to stay off 'dangerous' Ottawa-area trails

Ottawa-area snowmobile clubs are warning members to stay off the region's network of trails due to unsafe surface conditions.

Warning follows rescue of two snowmobilers who crashed through ice

Ryan Downing of the Osgoode Carleton Snowmobile Trail Club (left) is warning snowmobilers to stay off the region's network of trails until surface conditions improve. (Ottawa Carleton Snowmobile Trail Club)

Snowmobile clubs in the Ottawa area are warning their members to steer clear of the region's network of trails, despite the recent arrival of wintry weather.

The problem isn't a lack of snow. According to Ryan Downing of the Osgoode Carleton Snowmobile Trail Club, the issue is that what's underneath it hasn't had time to freeze, creating unsafe conditions.

"We do have quite a bit of snow. But we need some colder temperatures to freeze what's underneath the snow" said Downing.

Quite a bit of the trails are dangerous ... it's not safe for them to go because you can actually sink in water.- Ryan Downing

Downing said the temperature needs to dip to –20 C for four consecutive nights before the surface under the snow is considered safe. Until that happens, he said the club can't groom the trails.

"Quite a bit of the trails are dangerous. There are a lot of swamps that we cross with our grooming equipment, so it's not safe for them to go because you can actually sink in water."

Snowmobilers go through ice

That's what happened Wednesday night when a couple of snowmobilers went through the ice of a creek in Munster Hamlet, southwest of Ottawa.

The 911 call came in just before 10 p.m. 

Ottawa fire dispatched its own snowmobiles and ATVs, but rescuers eventually had to dismount and search on foot due to difficult, unsafe conditions.

They finally located reached the snowmobilers in a swampy area about 10 kilometres down the trails off Kettles Road. 

Firefighters say the snowmobilers were unhurt but were wet and cold after the incident. 

Riders could be trespassing

The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs grooms a vast network of trails and posts regular updates on the conditions to its website.

As of Jan. 7, 2016, the vast majority of trails surrounding Ottawa were closed, with only a small number offering "limited availability," meaning some sections may be unsafe and riders may have to use a detour.

"Until we groom the trail and open the trails officially on the OFSC website, the trails do remain closed, so stay off them please," said Downing. "When trails are closed, you're not supposed to be on trail because it is officially trespassing."

The warnings from snowmobile clubs come only days after similar words of caution from the Ontario Provincial Police's Snowmobile and All Terrain Vehicle Enforcement (SAVE) unit.


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