The record-breaking seasonal temperatures, while a welcome change for many, do have a direct effect on the Pembina Valley Snowkickers.
President Kory Van Damme said conditions look bleak right now.
"The season, by the looks of it, is over before it's even gonna get started. We had some wishful thinking from the last time we talked that maybe we would see some amount of snow come our way but can't say we got much snow. We got a pile of wind followed by a really nice 7° week coming here that we're into. None of which really bodes well for snowmobiling."
When asked if that means the season is definitely over, he replied,
"If it snowed two feet tomorrow, I would say, no, we would definitely give her a whirl. But judging by the forecast, I think you know week we might have like 10 to 15 centimeters as a potential snowfall, but that doesn't quite cut it to get started grooming. 'Cause I think after this week, we're gonna have 0 snow to start with, so we're needing a foot of snow from here on. And when are we gonna get it? I don't know."
Fluctuating temperatures don't bode well for trails.
"We just kind of roll with the punches and hopefully we do get something in the near future. It's just really hard once we hit middle of February, there is a lot of work to do to get the trails set up. It's not like a bang and, in a day, or two and all the trails are opened, and signs put up. It's all of a good week to get them remotely opened and then usually another week fine tuning."
Snoman Executive Director Yvonne Rideout sent in a statement regarding the overall outlook for Manitoba.
"This warm weather is certainly having an impact on snowmobiling province wide. It is devastating to volunteer clubs that put in all the work to get trails signed, packed, and groomed so that they can be opened and then shortly thereafter have to close their trails due to deteriorating conditions. The impact has a domino effect as it trickles into rural communities and affects businesses such as gas stations, restaurants, and accommodations. We have often heard from small business owners that the snowmobile traffic is vital for their operations to stay open in the slow tourism winter months. It also has an impact on Snopass sales, which directly affects the clubs financially.
As of January 31, 2024, we have two clubs with trails open in the north, one in the west, three in the Interlake, five in the east and none in central. Some of those trails have low snow conditions and we ask riders to use caution.
In Manitoba, the GDP (gross domestic product) is $113 million and tourism-related spending relating to snowmobiling is $47 million. Manitoba’s trail network is the 3rd longest in Canada, after Quebec and Ontario. We are tracking what is happening in our neighboring provinces, Saskatchewan and Ontario, and they are facing the same conditions as we are facing. This year snowmobiling is certainly a victim of Mother Nature. We hope that when some colder temperatures descend upon us, as forecasted for late next week, that we also get snow and can get our trail system open again. We are keeping our fingers crossed for an extended season this year."
As for the economic impact for the PV Snowkickers, Van Damme is optimistic.
"We'll probably be OK, I'm thinking. We did our social fundraiser; we are still selling tickets for our lottery. Between those two things, it definitely will help cover some of our bills, like insurance and things that we have to pay for regardless every year. Snoman does allocate a little bit of money for years where we can't groom, so we will get a little bit of financial assistance there too."
When asked what snowmobilers do when they can't get out on the trails, Van Damme said with a chuckle, they usually head to warmer places, like Mexico, at this time of year.