Can't Wait to Hit the Trails?—Get ESP This Winter

intrepid snowmobiler

As soon as the first snow flies on #ontariosnowtrails, snowmobilers are as anxious to start snowmobiling as Ontario clubs are to start grooming. But it’s not always that simple, because all trails are not created equal. Some require much more snow coverage than others to get going; others can’t be opened until the landowner says okay, and clubs can’t even get to some trails until the earth or water is frozen solidly enough to support the weight of a groomer. 

Needs Freezing

However, most OFSC districts have some trails on abandoned rail lines, utility corridors or old logging roads. Some of these are easily accessible, require minimal snow and can provide early riding opportunities if Mother Nature cooperates. So the OFSC has worked with its districts to identify as many of these as possible and to show them as “Limited” (yellow) on the Interactive Trail Guide as early as possible. They are called Early Season Priority Trails, ESP for short. They are sections of trails that clubs strive to make available before any others. They are simply places for snowmobilers to go to get that first ride in.

Their “Limited” status means that ESP Trails are passable with minimal snow for early season riding, where the rider expectation is not to have surfaces that are in-season smooth, to travel great distances, to ride in loops or to connect to other trails. The ride on these ESP Trails is more likely to be a short distance there and back on the same route with no side trails yet available. Also, ESP Trails will probably get beat up fairly quickly because there’s no hard packed base underneath as a foundation like there is later in the season.

Barely Enough 2

So ESP Trails are for you if you want to ride early to get that first ride out of your system, are willing to lower your normal in-season expectations, and most important, will cooperate by to staying off of any adjoining trails that are not yet available. Not only could wandering off onto closed trails be dangerous, but entering a closed trail could also result in permanent loss of that trail if the landowner has not yet given permission for riders to be there. 

Sometime after the snow comes, you will start to see ESP Trails show up in “Yellow” on the Interactive Trail Guide, so keep an eye out, enjoy – and before you know it, all the trails will look like this…


About Craig Nicholson—The Intrepid Snowmobiler

Popularly known as The Intrepid Snowmobiler, Craig Nicholson is an International Snowmobile Hall of Fame journalist who specializes in recreational snowmobiling activities. Craig has snowmobiled in every region of Canada and many states. His one-of-a-kind tour book, “Canada’s Best Snowmobiling – The Ultimate Ride Guide”, chronicles his adventures, as does his website and Facebook page.

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