ILE-BIZARD – This has been the deadliest winter for snowmobiling deaths in Quebec in at least seven years, according to the Quebec Federation of Snowmobiling Clubs.
With winter still not over, there have been a total of 29 deaths so far this year — almost double the number (15) recorded last winter.
“The low snow accumulation, paired with intense cold in February made the trails more icy,” said federation president Serge Ritcher in a telephone interview from Lanaudiere. Ritcher said inclement conditions brought on by the harsh winter contributed to deadly conditions.
The two most recent deaths over the weekend include a 62-year-old in Pointe-Calumet and a four-year-old in Rimouski.
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) is planning on beefing up patrols in the future, in an effort to ensure snowmobilers drive safely.
Snowmobilers at the Ile-Bizard Snowmobile Club — the only one of its kind in Montreal — said the edge of winter is always a dangerous time for snowmobilers.
“When it’s ice out there, you never know when you hit a hot spot in the water and go right through and freeze to death,” said Ron Sullivan, a snowmobiler who lives near the tracks on the island. Ile-Bizard is a popular launchpoint for snowmobilers heading for wilder country — but getting off the island requires hard ice over the river.
“Most people don’t respect the signs,” said Marie Forte, a member of the club. “If you’re not on the trail it’s at your own risk.”