Tech & Science

Changing climate making snowmobiling riskier, OPP say

Ontario police have warned that climate change is shortening the snowmobile season and creating more dangerous trails for riders across the province.

Ontario police say 13 snowmobiles have died so far this season, which runs from November to April, many tumbled through the ice. A total of 13 people died during last year’s snowmobiling season, but police say the season isn’t over yet.

OPP’s motorized snowmobile coordinator, Paul Beaton, said mild winters are shortening the snowmobile season and that’s a concern.

Beaton said in a telephone interview, “Perhaps it represents an increase because there are the same number of deaths in a shorter period of time.

“Our season is very narrow and is decreasing year by year.”

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He said that as the season shortens, the number of trails in Ontario that are unsafe for snowmobiling is increasing.

“This could lead to global warming,” Beaton said.

He said mild winters have changed snowmobiling routes that might once have been considered safe.

“We didn’t get a good snowpack and consistently cold weather riders need hard trails, icy waterways. Not all ice is to change dramatically,” he said.

“People are dying running through the water because they can’t support the weight of you or your snowmobile.”

Some riders are venturing into remote areas where trails are not designated in search of thicker snow or ice, making the sport more dangerous.

According to state police, 46% of snowmobile fatalities this season have occurred in northeastern Ontario, with most of the fatalities being men between the ages of 25 and 34 who are likely to enjoy the hobby. Because it is expensive.

“It is very important that people are aware of how the weather affects safe riding,” Beaton said.

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Pierre Charrier, owner of a company in Quebec that takes people on snowmobile expeditions in several regions, said his business had to change the way it worked as weather patterns changed.

Mr. Challier, owner of Nord Expe Inc., said:

Nord Expe’s trail guides prepare well in advance for expeditions, he said, and encourages all snowmobile enthusiasts to do the same.

“We need to know all the weather during the winter: when ice is made, whether the wind blows or not, whether it snows or rains,” he said. “If in doubt, the guides will poke holes everywhere…see if there are cracks, slush, ice thickness.”

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OPP’s Beaton said snowmobiles can still offer exhilarating freedom, but they need to be more careful.

“I hope they enjoy it,” he said. “I hope they come back and tell stories of happy times instead of sharing stories of loss and grief.”

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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