Southern Quebecers experiencing worst snowmobiling season in almost two decades due to mild weather

"One of our winter activities that is not being done this year," says Francis Theoret of Montreal’s only snowmobile club, among those experiencing the worst riding season in almost two decades because of milder weather. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

Some celebrate warm and mild weather in the winter, while others, like snowmobilers, don’t.

Montreal’s only snowmobile club, the Club Auto-Neige Île-Bizard, is among those experiencing the worst riding season in almost two decades because of the lack of snow and warmer temperatures.

This has forced the closure of the trails on the island of Île-Bizard and the majority of those north of the city. 

“I’m a snowmobiler at heart, I’ve been snowmobiling since I’m three years old,” says Francis Théorêt of the Île-Bizard club. “To me, it’s kind of sleeping on a season where I could be doing so many things.”

Francis Théorêt of the Club Auto-Neige Île-Bizard on Feb. 15, 2024. (Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews image)

“It’s been tough, I have my seven-year-old daughter who likes to come ride with me and I can’t bring her out,” he said. “It’s just one of our winter activities that is not being done this year.” 

Théorêt normally rides up to 300 kilometres a season and has barely done 20 this year.

Out of the usual two and a half month long season, he says only two weeks have been rideable so far because of the patches of grass found along most trails.

Snowmobilers part of the Club Auto-Neige Île-Bizard. (Submitted: Francis Théorêt)

“Usually we have a foot of hard-packed snow,” he said. “There’s not enough snow to cool down the snowmobiles and all the wear for the track and the skis in themselves, it will damage them.”

The crossing for the Lake of Two Mountains is also closed.

“Even if there’s snow, it is not cold enough, we can’t make sure that it is safe for users to cross.”

Quebecers facing the worst snowmobiling season in almost two decades in 2024. (Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews image)

Instead of locally snowmobiling, most riders are driving north to find viable trails.

“All the way up to Saint-Donat, the conditions are very poor and everyone’s going to where the snow is so you get maybe 50 per cent to 75 per cent more than what the trails are used to.”

The economy surrounding the activity is also taking a big hit.

“On weekends, it’s about 75 to 100 snowmobiles that come by for lunch,” he said, pointing to a gravel parking lot. “But it’s pretty much looking like spring.”

“It’s a lack of people that don’t come to have food or spend some time here, so it’s less business for us, less business for the club and a lot less visibility.”

The forecast isn’t looking too promising either. About seven centimetres of snow are expected in the Montreal area into Friday, but he says it won’t make much of a difference.

“What would be ideal would be 10cm, we could work with that to save the rest of the season,” he said. “But if there’s no big amounts of snow on the way, we won’t be able to do much.”

A disappointing season that Théorêt hopes will end with some fresh powder.  

“We never know, if mother nature will bring us snow storm late February.”

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