This is What It’s Like Snowmobiling Through Southwestern Ontario

Riding the trails as a group is the best part of this family's snowmobiling adventures.

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Snowmobiling southwestern ontario - Mary Dunk on snowmobilePhoto: Courtesy Mary L. Dunk

A Lifelong Love of Snowmobiling

Winters can be very enjoyable if you have a favourite outdoor sport. Our Hindley family clan has enjoyed snowmobiling since the 1970s when we were kids on a farm in Hillsburgh, Ontario. Back then, Dad bought my younger brother, Danny, who was only 13 at the time, a brand new 1976 Moto-Ski Spirit for $800. Coincidentally, at that time, I began dating Garry Dunk, who came with a brand new 1974 Sno-Jet. Immediately, I purchased a snowmobile suit and wore his old helmet in order to ride along with him. We rode over fields, through bushes and along old railway lines, viewing scenery and wildlife from a new perspective.

When Garry and I got married, we continued to snowmobile with my long-time girlfriend, Kathy, and her husband, Blake McBlain. We often went out on day trips—sometimes travelling over 160 kilometres. We’d stop at various clubhouses on the trails to warm up by a wood stove. Our fellas would often chat with the other sledders about the trail conditions up ahead, flooded areas and whether the trail groomers had recently passed through.

These days, trail conditions are posted and updated weekly on the Internet, showing which trails are open or closed. There are miniature stop signs at every level-crossing and in towns, while restaurants and fuel stations are also posted.

Find out how another Our Canada contributor learned to love Canadian winters.

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Snowmobile trail in southwestern OntarioPhoto: Mary L. Dunk

The Family That Snowmobiles Together

Every February, we would head up to Wiarton, Ontario, home of the Canadian groundhog, “Wiarton Willie,” for an entire weekend of snowmobiling. We’d book a motel with a nearby restaurant, and park our machines just outside our doors. As the years passed, more and more family and friends joined us, with as many as ten machines all riding together.

Starting a family didn’t slow down the snowmobiling either. Our two boys rode upfront from a young age. When our eldest turned 12, he wanted to learn how to drive. I took him to Arthur, Ontario, for a class to learn about the rules and to obtain his snowmobiling licence. As I was exiting the classroom, the instructor asked me if I knew how to drive a machine. “No, I’m a passenger,” I replied. He convinced me to stay and I learned a lot about snowmobiles. That day, my son and I both got our licences! We soon decided to purchase a second snowmobile, an Indy Trail Deluxe, and I was in the driver’s seat at every possible opportunity!

Check out more of Canada's coolest winter travel destinations.

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Snowmobilers warming upPhoto: Courtesy Mary L. Dunk

The Allure of Snowmobiling

When our boys had other commitments, my husband and I would invite our neighbours’ kids to join us for snowmobiling. This sport certainly rubbed off on them since now one of the fellas drives a bigger and faster machine than either of ours!

While on the trails, we’d come across deer, wild turkeys, porcupines up trees, owls on poles and even hawks swooping down to catch rabbits. When there’s a full moon and fresh snow, you can look across a field or trail and see so much nightlife.

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Snowmobile tunnel near Kearney, OntarioPhoto: Mary L. Dunk

Spectacular Winter Beauty

When driving in groups, we always have a designated leader to point out attractions, as they come upon them. The last driver signals to oncoming vehicles with a low wave to let them know there is no one else behind us.

In addition, we get to enjoy the spectacular winter beauty while riding through a forest with evergreens laden with freshly fallen snow. At such times, we all pull over for a break and to capture some amazing photos.

Now that Garry and I are retired, and our boys are out in British Columbia, we have more time to enjoy snowmobiling with our friends. When snow is sparse in our vicinity, we trailer our machines further up north. We like to head to Magnetawan, Ontario, as the trails are good there and Garry once lived in the area. On several other occasions, we have travelled to Lion’s Head, Kearney, Port Elgin and Fenelon Falls, Ontario.

Check out more fantastic photography of snow-covered Canadian landscapes.

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Snowmobile enthusiastsPhoto: Courtesy Mary L. Dunk

Snowmobiling Blackcomb Mountain

One of our most exciting snowmobile experiences came in November 2009. We had gone out west to visit our son, Jeff, who worked in Whistler. To our surprise, he’d rented a snowmobile for us and a tour guide to lead us on a trek on Blackcomb Mountain! Jeff had also rented gear for us to wear. Yes, this was the same boy who got his snowmobile license the same day as his mom!

A tour guide, along with five couples, drove Yamaha machines for a three-hour nighttime trek. The trails were groomed wide and the snow was especially deep for that time of the year but the temperature seemed unusually mild to be snowmobiling. One couple was driving a machine for the very first time! We made frequent stops of interest and at one point, our guide went up ahead to check on avalanche conditions. It was at this point, we all headed back down to base camp. All in all, it was a truly unforgettable experience!

Next, check out this gorgeous gallery of Canadian winter photography.

Originally Published in Our Canada