ANTIGONISH, N.S. - If the last few weeks are any indication, this could certainly be a much better winter in the region than last year, in terms of providing for snow sports and activities. Count the Antigonish Sno-Dogs snowmobile club amongst those with their fingers crossed, hoping that does prove to be the case.
Incorporated in 1997, the not-for-profit group has been very active in, as noted on a pamphlet created last winter, “the development and management of a 150 km plus network of trails, for more than 20 years.”
It’s noted the trails stretch across Antigonish and Pictou counties, passing over Weavers, Keppoch and Eigg mountains “as well as trails that make their way along Hwy. 104 leading you to fuel, food and accommodations,” the pamphlet passage reads.
“The trail system contains many spectacular look-offs over the Northumberland Strait (Arisaig) as well as beautiful scenic sunsets peering over the mountainous terrain.”
Last year’s membership number for the Sno-Dogs was 46 and president Jeremy Landry and vice-president Kevin Morse said they’re hoping to recruit more people to join the club this season.
“It’s about community involvement,” Morse said, adding the club provides networking opportunities for folks who share a passion for snowmobiling. The cost of a membership is $30.
He pointed to the often-run Elsie Kelly Memorial Snowmobile Rally, which raised money for the Antigonish Town and County Palliative Care Society, as an example of the club’s community involvement.
The club, which meets monthly (the first Thursday of each month), maintains a groomer as well as safety shelters on the mountains, and does so for the enjoyment and safety of all.
Snowmobilers do pay for a trail permit pass which allows them access to all Snowmobile Association of Nova Scotia (SANS) trails across the province, of which the Sno-Dogs maintained trails are part of. Folks receive a sticker to attach to their machines to indicate they’ve paid for the season.
There is an early-bird fee which can be taken advantage of by Dec. 15. See the SANS’ website (snowmobilersns.com) for details. The fee goes back into maintaining the grooming and creation of trails.
“The groomer money comes from the trail passes,” Landry emphasized.
“People buy trail passes and all that money gets put in a pot,” he added, noting there is a formula for how it’s then distributed to the clubs to help with grooming expenses.
“How much money you get back at the end of the year depends on how many hours you put on your groomer. If you run your groomer 500 hours, you’re going to get a lot more than the club who runs theirs’s 200 hours, because you need more. That is where the trail pass money goes.”
An emphasis for the club is to enjoy their recreation safely and responsibly and they’re happy to promote those messages whenever the opportunity arises.
One of the messages is that sledding and alcohol simply don’t mix.
“People do have a tendency to think, to some extent, they can drink and drive a snowmobile where they wouldn’t think to do so with a car,” Sno-Dogs member Douglas MacLellan said. “We have those warming shelters there and a guy could be in there, with nobody else around, drinking, but we certainly don’t want that.”
“Those shelters are there for safety,” Landry added.
“If someone is broken down or gets hurt, there are all kinds of emergency equipment in there, like first aid kits.”
Morse said the Sno-Dogs are happy to work with the RCMP and Department of Natural Resources (DNR), who regulate the trail systems, to promote safety.
Antigonish RCMP community policing officer Cst. Morgan MacPherson said it’s a relationship that works well.
“We've always had a great relationship with the Antigonish Sno-Dogs,” MacPherson said in an email response to the Casket.
“We work closely with DNR in monitoring any runs or activities that are put on during the winter season. We strongly enforce impaired driving with any vehicle, including recreational snow machines. The impaired driving charges and penalties are the same on a snow machine as they are in a regular vehicle.
“We also work in conjunction with DNR on enforcing the provincial statutes that could result in tickets and seizure of the vehicle/snow machines.
“We have been very lucky in Antigonish to have such a great relationship with the Sno-Dogs. They do a great job of ensuring everyone participating in their activities are well aware of the legal requirements and onus on machine operators. We do wish our local snow machine enthusiasts a safe and joyful snow season.”
Landry, Morse and MacLellan all noted how snowmobiling can add to a region’s sport tourism economic benefits and that does happen in this area.
“It brings a lot of money in locally, to have a club,” Morse said.
“If we didn’t have the trails groomed, looked after, it wouldn’t bring the people in; and then they wouldn’t be here to go to Boston Pizza for lunch, or to buy their gas locally, things like that. It’s big for tourism.”
For more on the Sno-Dogs club, visited them on Facebook.