Ideally, snowmobilers look for around 30 centimetres of snow before hitting the trails.
For much of the province, the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association (SSMA) is hoping a good blast of snow comes soon.
There’s enough snow in more northern trail systems, like Hudson Bay, Meadow Lake and Narrow Hills Provincial Park. These local SSMA chapters are doing prep work to get trails ready for the season.
“The early snow came before frost got in, so we’ve still got unstable areas under the snow,” SSMA president and CEO Chris Brewer said. “We’ve still got swampy areas that aren’t freezing up, but clubs are getting out they’re using snowmobiles and tools – Things like that to get snow compacted so we can get frost in.”
As for trails south of Hudson Bay, Brewer said they need about a foot of snow before grooming equipment can go on the trails.
Riders can still use the trails ahead of time. In his home club at Regina Beach, Brewer said the trails are posted and ready to go, but at their own risk.
“You don’t know what’s under the snow, so be very cautious when you get out on your snowmobile,” Brewer said. “Always remember don’t drink and ride, and of course now riding high is a DUI as well.”
Brewer also advised that riders avoid crossing frozen streams and creeks until the local clubs can determine ice thickness. He said the rule of thumb is about 18 centimetres of clear blue ice.
The SSMA is hoping to see enough snow come to the province by Christmas, allowing for riders to take advantage of the holidays, and bring business to motels and gas stations along the province’s extensive trail network.
As of Dec. 10, none of the province’s trails are listed as open on the SSMA map.
People looking to fulfill their need for speed can do so at the province’s ski hills. Mission Ridge at Fort Qu’Appelle, Table Mountain near North Battleford and Wapiti Valley outside Gronlid are all open for the season, thanks to artificial snow.
On Monday morning, several ice fishing shacks were set up on Last Mountain Lake at Regina Beach. Fisher Jarrett Holownko said there was more than 30 centimetres of ice on the north side of the pier, but it thins out on the south side. He also saw open areas elsewhere on the lake.
Bodies of water don’t freeze in a uniform fashion, so it is essential to check the ice thickness.
The Environment Ministry advises people to be cautious on all frozen water bodies. Here are some ice facts to be aware of:
- Slush indicates that ice is eroding from above and below;
- Avoid if thawed, then frozen again;
- Avoid if near moving water;
- Large, deep lakes take longer to freeze and are slower to melt than smaller lakes; and
- Changing temperatures can cause thermal cracks and pressure ridges, which are indicators of unsafe ice.
In Regina, outdoor rinks are expected to open on Dec. 21, but not all 59 rinks will necessarily be open that day.