Behind The Scenes: Prepping Snowmobile Trails

What does it take to prepare recreational snowmobile trails every winter throughout the Kawarthas and Haliburton? They seem to reappear by magic. But that sorcery is actually attributable to local volunteers. They donate their time to area snowmobile clubs between winters. It’s a rural partnership tradition. One that provides their hometowns, businesses and neighbours with many economic, recreational, social and health benefits generated by snowmobile trails.

On autumn days, these unpaid helpers take to the backwoods to ready trails through the wizardry of their efforts and expertise. Some come out for a few hours; others return multiple days. Their collective goal is to provide club industrial grooming machines with unobstructed winter access to smooth the snow into a packed, durable surface for everyone’s riding enjoyment. 

This largely unheralded labour occurs out of sight on about 2,000 kilometres of area snowmobile trails. They are operated in the hinterlands by clubs who are members of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC). Their trails connect most of our communities. These corridors are located in a giant regional rectangle, located between the north shores of the Kawartha Lakes and the southern boundary of Algonquin Park. It’s anchored in the southwest by Fenelon Falls, northwest by Haliburton, northeast by Bancroft and southeast by Havelock.

About 65% of trails are on private property and close at winter’s end. Until the next fall, they’re subject to the vagaries of Mother Nature. Her impacts on the trails are wide-ranging. Washouts caused by beaver dams. Narrowing due to rampant growth. Erosion from heavy rains and flooding. Blockages by broken branches and fallen debris.

Manmade infrastructure also requires attention. Hundreds of bridges and culverts need to be checked and repaired. Trail surfaces damaged by other motorized vehicles necessitate regrading. Defaced or missing safety and wayfinding signs must be replaced. Map boards and intersection markers renewed. “No Trespassing” notices put up. Gates reopened. Thousands of trail stakes reinstalled after being removed by volunteers the previous spring for trail closures. 

But before any of this preparation can commence, club volunteers must renew land use permission from hundreds of landowners for a snowmobile trail on their property. Reconfirm previous trail routing or plan required re-routes. Then get the okay for fall work to begin on private land.

It’s a massive annual undertaking, especially after unexpected destruction occurs. Like that wrought by Ontario’s powerful derecho last May and other recent windstorms. Then the task can become overwhelming. So our area clubs need lots of extra help clearing impassable trails this autumn. 

Lending a hand is a great way for community members, including snowmobilers and cottagers, to get involved. To share an outdoors family adventure without summer heat or bugs. To connect with new riding companions. For teenagers to earn credits towards their required 40 hours of community service. What’s more, fall trail prep is the best way to discover what it really takes to make snowmobile trails reappear – to get ready for the winter magic of snowmobiling! 

To Lend A Hand, Contact Your Local Club:

Buckhorn & District – 

Haliburton County Snowmobile

Havelock & District – 

Kawartha Lakes Snowmobile Club (Fenelon Falls) – 

Old Hastings Snow Riders (Bancroft) – 

Paudash Trail Blazers (Apsley) – 

Stoney Lake Sno Riders – 

Twin Mountains (Bobcaygeon) – 

Learn More About Snowmobiling At:

Ontario Federation of Snowmobile


By Craig Nicholson, The Intrepid Snowmobiler  

International Snowmobile Hall of Fame Journalist

Photo Credit Top Left: Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority

Photo Credit: Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs

Photo Credit Above: Al Fletcher