Ontario Snowmobile Forecast for Winter of 2015 2016

Will the winter of 2015-2016 be just as good, if not better, than the two previous winters in Ontario? We’re about to find out. 

Update December 2021 - What is Ontario gonna get this year? Check out our predictions for the 2022 snowmobile season!

We’ve just had two exceptional seasons that stretched from early December to mid-April. The snowmobile industry in Ontario is in an upswing, with more of us taking advantage of the true Canadian winter weather. It’s fact that both new and used snowmobile sales sky rocketed last year, we saw riders buy trail permits in droves, and the overall snowmobile experience has improved leaps and bounds. Going into the winter of 2015-2016, Ontario riders are inviting all of our friends from south of the border to come on up and take advantage of great value for their money while riding some of the best trails in the world.  

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In early April, I "spring checked" a brand new Ski-Doo Freeride 137. I know what you’re thinking: "new sled equals no snow," but I’m thinking just the opposite. First, I ordered a sled with a 2.25-inch track. Secondly, I sold my trusty steed during the summer, and my new 2016 sled was delivered, assembled and brought home before the end of August. This will be the most prepared I’ve ever been for winter – and every time I go into the garage, my new Ski-Doo whispers that it’s going to snow piles and I am going to ride all over this fine country!

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Picking up the freeride on August 14 from
Giesler Marine in Powassan, Ontario

In last year’s winter prediction article, I disclosed to you my father in-law's projection that the approaching winter would be great. He was right on the money. However, he did not get the opportunity to ride due to some unexpected health complications. I know that he was afflicted by this and I was too, it was something we had both looked forward to. In early spring he bought a new boat motor, a risky move after the summer of 2014’s rainy weekends and quick end in August, but this past summer has been absolutely epic for boating. 

What the Experts Are Saying

This summer, I was astonished by the quantity of weather content that circulated, speculating about the conditions of the approaching winter. I’ve never witnessed so many different sources arguing about winter. It seems as if the entire North American continent has their eyes on it. Those on the west coast are hoping for much needed precipitation to solve drought and forest fire issues, while central and eastern North Americans wonder if we will see that numbing cold again. 

And I can’t help but wonder… will the Polar Vortex return and freeze the great lakes? Will we see gargantuan snow squalls develop and smother central Ontario? Will riders in the far north ride into May again? When will the first OFSC ESP trails open for riding? Will snow close highways, dispatching snowmobilers to the aid of motorists? What effect will El-Nino have on us this winter? Will this winter be dubbed the Godzilla winter?

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration says there is a greater than 90% chance that El Nino will continue through the Northern Hemisphere into the fall of 2015. There is about an 85% chance it will last through the 2015-2016 winter. NASA is already predicting, based on global oceanic temperature maps and models, that we could be in for the strongest El Nino in recorded history. But at the same time, NASA is predicting barbaric blizzards may come our way.

Senior Meteorologist with Accuweather, Brett Anderson communicated recently his confidence that this El Nino will be one of the strongest over the past 50 years. Anderson notes in an Accuweather article that El Nino typically reaches its peak during the December through February period. In addition, he adds that the strongest El Nino currently on record since the beginning of the 20th century occurred during the 1997-1998 winter. 


Canadians and Americans in the northeast will never forget the winter of '97-98, as it brought with it the Northern American ice storm that resulted in over $5 billion worth of damage and required assistance from both military personal and thousands of volunteers. But the same weather pattern brought some major snow storms to other areas, making it a decent winter for snowmobiling.

El Nino isn’t the only occurrence that effects our weather and winter. Atmospheric conditions and geological events all interact to form constantly changing and evolving weather systems. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is strong this year and could weaken the "warming" effect of the substantial El Nino. It's possible that it could even push the jet stream south of the border in eastern North America locking us into weeks of Polar Vortex deep freeze. At the very least, it would likely deliver decent snow for Ontario.

Tried, Tested and True

This theory is supported by the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which boasts 80% accuracy in the prediction of seasonal weather. It released preliminary forecasts for the winter of 2015-2016 in mid-August. These predictions detail that we’re in for below average cold and lots of snow. In addition, the almanac utilizing its proprietary prediction model, predicts that most of us in Ontario will see another white Christmas. 

2016 can weather map

Then there are the natural signs, the ones the farmers, trappers and those in remote communities rely on to predict and prepare for what’s coming. August had barely begun when I received a message from a friend on the James Bay coast that the geese were fleeing. It wasn’t long after the flying V’s appeared overhead in my neck of the woods heading due south.

Another telltale sign of the impending snow depth is the location of bee and wasp nests. Within a week I received information from multiple sources that the nests were being found high in trees. I even found one in my own backyard some 20 feet up in a pine. Rene Hebert, a local pest contractor with more than 20 years’ experience, was recently quoted in an article saying “I find the wasp nests are higher, so I believe that means we will get lots of snow this year.”

And finally, a sign you can’t ignore – the maple trees have already started to show signs of red and yellow, and it isn’t even Labour Day! 

bees nest


With so much competing and contradicting information circulating, it’s challenging to say without a doubt what we are in store for this winter. However, I’m willing to take the criticism if I get it wrong this year as I’ve been bang on the last two seasons. So what’s the prediction and advice to be prepared for the winter of 2015-2016 in Ontario? 

Ontario’s likely going to experience some wild weather from El Nino, but it’s been hot & dry in the West again this summer, so if the jet stream holds like the last two years, we could be in for another epic winter. This prognostication is also supported by the likelihood that the Great Lakes will not completely freeze over again this winter, which should lead to weeks of snow squall activity.

  • Snowmobile manufacturers delivered spring orders earlier than ever this year, this must be a sign that they believe we will have early season riding opportunities;

  • I sold my sled in mid-July, riders – like me riders are already excited and yearning for another good winter here in Ontario;

  • The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is strong as well and could weaken some of the "warming" effect of the substantial El Nino and even possibly push the jet stream south of the border in eastern North America locking us into weeks of Polar Vortex deep freeze.;

  • No one watches the weather like farmers, the old almanac is predicting a cold and snowy winter;

  • NASA is predicting that that this year’s El Nino could be a Godzilla, barbaric blizzards may come our way but it may also send unseasonably warm weather.;  

  • The great lakes will not completely freeze over this winter, leading to weeks of snow squall activity;

  • Historical information such as data from the winter of 97-98 could mean we're in for some savage storms that could bring with them gargantuan amounts of snow but also possibly ice and rain;

  • The birds, bees and trees know what’s ahead and seem to be starting early in hopes of getting ahead of what’s to come;,

  • That Ski-Doo sitting in my garage keeps telling me it’s ready to go!;

  • Finally, my father-in-law is again predicting that winter is going to come early and stay long this year and that’s good enough for me!

snow trail

Advice for winter 2015-2016

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    Plan early, have your ride, permit and gear ready by Halloween; 

  • Have an emergency kit at home, at the cottage and in your vehicle;

  • Be prepared to trailer to find the best snow, as noted above we're in for a wild winter full of ups and downs; 

  • Organize with friends and family to plan to visit somewhere new this winter;

  • It’s going to be a white Christmas with good riding opportunities; 

  • Volunteer for a local club, this winter is going to be challenge across the province and they are going to need all the help they can get; and, of course 

  • Share this article with a riding buddy and start wrenching on the sleds now! 


getting freeride ready

See you on the trail, i've got to get back to my projects now!


About Jeff McGirr

Jeff McGirr is a powersports & marine enthusiast who loves sharing Northern Ontario experiences with you through his articles and videos.

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