Regina had its second driest year on record in 2017. The lack of moisture is now making its way into the new year, creating tough times for businesses and winter enthusiasts alike.
Avid snowmobiler Royce Barlow has been riding for over 30 years, but this winter he hasn’t been able to take his sled out. In fact, his 2013 Ski-Doo has seen little action over the past six years.
READ MORE: 2017 second driest year on record in Regina
“(My snowmobile) has around 600 miles on it. Last year we put 50 miles on it in very rough territory and other than that it hasn’t been driven much at all,” said Barlow, adding in an average year he normally racks up 500 to 1,000 miles on his machine.
Barlow blames the last three brown winters, saying there’s simply not enough snow to ride.
“If we look at the yard here there is a slight covering, but you probably want 12 to 15 inches of snow to ride in,” he said. “If there’s any rocks around, you’ll hit them in this level of snow and cause damage to an expensive toy.”
According to the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association, the majority of their southern trails are closed. That’s prompted many die-hard snowmobilers to travel north or out of province seeking fresh powder. But for those like Barlow, travelling hundreds of kilometres for a weekend isn’t an option.
“We’re not happy. We’ve spent a lot of money on our toys and we want to be able to use them,” Barlow said. “For a lot of us, our winter sport is out riding our snowmobiles.”
Riders aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of a dry winter.
Darcey Shaw, owner of Alsport Sales Ltd., says the lack of snow has “drastically” affected their snowmobile sales.
“Our sales are down about 60 to 70 per cent over a normal year,” Shaw explained. “We’re at about 40 sleds compared to where we’d be about 100 sleds.”
To his recollection, Shaw says this is the fifth consecutive year Regina and area has been lacking snow. Even his die-hard customers are losing interest in the sport, which has resulted in him slashing prices to generate sales.
“We’ve put all our sleds on sale, put them down basically to our cost to just try and get them out the door. But even that’s not helping when there’s no snow.”
Trevor Norgan, manager of Fresh Air Experience, echoes Shaw’s concerns. The Regina business has seen a drop in sales and rentals for skis and snowshoes.
“It’s a real challenge,” Norgan said. “In our business we need snow. People like to slide and glide on multiple (pieces of equipment).”
Norgan, who’s also a member of the Regina Ski Club, said the group still remains positive, despite the disappointing snowfall. The club brings in snow from ditches around the city to maintain and groom the cross-country ski trails at Kinsmen Park.
“We seek snow, we search it out is what we do, in areas in the past that we know have snow pockets that’s definitely where we concentrate our activities on and go to.”
As for Barlow, he’s packing up his sled for now, but he’s not writing this winter off yet.
“I would like to hope we’re going to get more snow, but it’s up to the weather gods.”