Thunder Bay Adventure Trails celebrates re-opened trail system
900 km of trail blocked by ice storm in in 2017 will open across the region in 2020
After a couple of challenging years, the head groomer of Thunder Bay Adventure Trails, Adrian Tessier, says they have reopened most of the snowmobile trails that have been out of service for the past two winters.
Tessier is also the President of the Northwestern Ontario Snowmobile Trails Association, an umbrella organization that takes in clubs in Atikokan, Ignace, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake, Dryden, Kenora, Emo and Thunder Bay.
Tessier said a freezing rain storm in October of 2017 caused havoc right across the region, and downed trees blocked many snowmobile trails.
He said it took a lot of work to clear so much blocked trail, but things are looking much better heading into this winter season.
"This year, we are going to have all of our trails open, that were closed due to that storm," he said. "That's a huge amount of work considering it's all volunteer based, to clean up that many kilometres of trail over basically a two year period is just phenomenal."
Tessier said about 900 km. of trail across the region has been cleared and will be ready to groom once the snows come.
There is also some good news regarding trail groomers in the region.
"Our fleet is actually in good shape," Tessier said. "There are 18 groomers throughout the district among the eight clubs. And we are doing some seasonal checks and repairs now on the equipment. Everything will be ready to go once we get a decent snow base and start getting the machines out."
Tessier said Emo, Atikokan and Thunder Bay all will be using refurbished and " new to them" groomers this winter. He said the move to newer groomers come thanks to the OFSC (Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs fleet management program. Places like Ottawa, that have groomers going 24/7, get new machines while smaller clubs with less hours get the refurbished unit.
Tessier said he likes to see between 40 to 50 cm. of snow on the ground before grooming because of logs and stumps that can be scattered on the trails. He said clubs in the Emo and Fort Frances areas have more flat fields on the trail system and can start grooming with less snow.
Tessier said despite the good news about snowmobile trails in the northwest, he feels trail pass sales are still below where they should be.
"To be quite honest, it's a little bit disappointing," he said. "We are a little bit down on sales. We're just under 100 trail passes...which is not really great for a city the size of Thunder Bay. Overall, our district is probably on par. Some clubs are up on sales and some are down.I think basically we are holding our own with the passes we have sold....but it would be great to have more people buy passes."
Tessier noted that in the late 90's and early 2000's Thunder Bay Adventure Trails was known as the largest club in the world selling just over 3500 passes. He said about 1500 to 1600 OFSC trail passes are sold in the district annually.
Tessier said part of the change to trail pass sales is the demographic for the activity is changing dramatically. He said younger and newer riders are tending to gravitate to a different type of snowmobiling experience.
"If you go into the dealership, and look at the snowmobiles that are sitting on the floor, you will maybe find one or two touring sleds," he said. "You will find sleds for boondocking, and mountain climbing and ditch banging and that sort of thing...which is what the people enjoy to do today."
Tessier said OFSC passes for the 2020 season were $190 if bought on or before Nov. 1. Then they went to $230 if bought on or before Dec. 1., after which they stay at $280 for the rest of the year.
All passes are bought on line with the exception of special event passes.