With a little luck and a lot of snow, Saskatchewan snowmobilers used to be able to ride their sleds from October to March.
But, according to snowmobile safety instructor Jerry Jemieff, the season has been cut in half thanks to consecutive years of dry winters.
“We’re lucky if they get started by Christmas,” Jemieff said. “Usually the snow disappears by the end of March, so the snowmobiling window is very, very short.”
Depending on the area, Jemieff said riders can get away with taking their sleds for a ride, but he warned all snowmobilers should be cautious when it comes to debris like rocks and stumps.
“If you drive over one of those with a sled at any kind of speed, you’re going to do a lot of damage,” Jemieff said. “We are definitely lacking snow. We need approximately four to six centimetres more in order for snow conditions to be ideal.”
Jemieff said snowmobile clubs across the province are all saying the same thing: “The next snowfall that comes will be time to send out the groomers and start grooming the trails.”
He the best snow conditions are in the northern part of the province, adding the Prince Albert snowmobile club is hoping to groom its trails in the coming days.
“Snowpack in the north is closer to average, but as you head further south, we are seeing exceptionally low packs particularly in the Regina area,” said Peter Quinlan, Global News weather specialist.
One centimetre of snow was reported on the ground at the Regina Airport. Saskatoon and area have about eight centimetres. According to Quinlan, normally there is about 12 to 14 centimetres.
“This has been a string of about seven years of below-normal snowpacks,” Quinlan said.
And it is a seven-year stretch that’s taking a toll on businesses.
One snowmobile dealership in Regina said this is the slowest season for sales in the last five years.
Another business told Global News that customers are adapting to the climate and buying recreation vehicles that don’t depend on snow like ATVs and side-by-sides.