Written by Katherine Ludwig
The thick, fluffy snow that has fallen in Saskatchewan is the perfect terrain for snowmobilers.
The province has hundreds of trails for riders to explore but the Saskatchewan Snowmobiling Association says there are some things riders should keep in mind before they hit the trails.
According to the Snowmobile Act, all snowmobiles must be registered with SGI before riding on public roads (where permitted), ditches, other highway rights of way, provincial parks, Crown land, designated snowmobile trails, or on rivers or lakes.
Sasksnow.com has more information and the registration link people must go through to register their snowmobile.
The website also has a map highlighting every riding trail in the province and whether it is open for use or closed.
Leah Switzer, the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association says if the trails are closed it’s for a good reason, “If a trail is closed right now, there can be a number of factors to that. Whether the club is still working on getting that trail signed and groomed or whether the landowner in that area maybe isn't ready for the club to take over the trails. So, we ask if a trail is closed, please check out why it is before you go ahead and use it. I mean, in some areas of our province we actually have forestry operations happening on some trails.”
Some trails have parts that go through people’s properties. If a rider is wanting to go off-trail and ride around someone’s open property, they must have permission first unless the property owner has signage on their land stating whether it’s allowed or not allowed to ride on their property. Any riders who don’t receive permission and continue to ride off-trail on someone’s private property will be subject to trespassing laws.
In efforts to make this process easier for riders and landowners, the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association has partnered with sasklander.ca.
“It is a new start-up out here in Saskatchewan that is working at land access permission, so they have landowners joining them (the website), then the public can then subscribe to their application, and they can request permissions through that for the landowner to whether they can snowmobile on their land,” says Switzer. It’s a one-stop shop for getting permission to ride freely on someone’s private property. It’s a new initiative that started this season, so the Association is making an effort in inviting people to join.
While riders are picking what trail to ride on and learning how to abide by the trespassing legislation, they must also keep their safety in mind.
Switzer says, “You should always ride with somebody you should never go out riding alone. And you should always let someone know where you're going. So, in case of emergency, they know where to start looking for you. If you were to get stranded out there and you need emergency… call 911. (In) some areas of the province, our cell coverage isn’t great so that's where we go back to always make sure that you're with someone and people know where you've gone.”
She also says that the type of snow gear a person is wearing is extremely important. Riders should dress for the elements and wear snow gear that will keep them warm and dry. A helmet is mandatory to wear by law and is a rider's biggest safety tool. Proper gloves, socks, and boots play a big part in keeping warm since people’s hands and feet get cold the quickest. Also, having a good snow jacket and snow pants is essential to keep warm and dry.
However, proper snow wear isn’t the only important thing to have on you, “When you're going out it's always good to have a safety kit with you of some emergency things whether it's snacks, water, matches, anything to keep you warm, should your sled break down. As well, you know, toilet paper is always good to take with you,” says Switzer.