Chasing Snow

Don't just sit around whining about the lack of it this winter. Trailer up and go to where the snow is—the Abitibi Canyon Tour awaits.

All photos by Shelby Mahon.

Winter is unpredictable, but your snowmobile season shouldn’t be. Many parts of Ontario have experienced above-average temperatures this winter, resulting in a lack of snow and a hard snow base, causing limited OFSC trail availability in Southwestern and Eastern Ontario. But like any passionate and optimistic snowmobiler, I go to where the snow is

Head North

After waiting through a long off-season, I was more than eager to break in my new 2017 Ski-Doo 850 Summit X in deep Ontario powder before heading to BC later in the winter. It was early January and the 2017 snowmobiling season had just begun—time for me and my best friends, Shelby and Ryan, to load up the truck and trailer with our sleds and gear and chase snow to some of the most northern OFSC trails and the Abitibi Canyon, north of Cochrane.

With the trailer all loaded up with our sleds and gear, Ryan, Shelby and I are ready to head north!

We chose to start out our Ontario snowmobile season with a bang, starting with a nine-hour road trip to Abitibi Canyon Base Camp. Honestly, there’s nothing I love more than road trips with the anticipation of sledding and spending a weekend away with my best friends. Half the fun in the adventure is getting to where you’re going anyway. And the further north you travel, the less traffic.

Ryan and I ‘stretching’ our legs during the nine-hour drive to Abitibi. 

Base Camp Abitibi Canyon

Sledding Abitibi Canyon and staying at Base Camp Abitibi Canyon is definitely for the snowmobiler who loves adventure. The camp itself currently runs off of a generator and battery power with no running water, cell phone service, or Wi-Fi.

We made it! And Shelby and I couldn’t be more excited!

You could say it isn’t for the faint of heart, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I love being off the grid, disconnecting from the outside world, and reconnecting with my friends who share the same enthusiasm for snowmobiling and the outdoors as I do.

Camp mornings with Michael Lobb, the Base Camp Manager, and Ryan were so relaxing.

Abitibi currently has a few feet of fresh snow. There’s not much of a hard base yet to cover stumps and rocks when riding off-trail or in the canyon, but that base will come as the winter progresses. The snow we chased from Southwestern Ontario was found and untouched.

We also enjoyed some of the many awesome back country riding opportunities that the canyon area has to offer, spending the entire day riding in the powder. During that time we only saw one other group of three sledders, begging the question: why haven’t more people come to chase snow up north too!? 

Playing tag with Ryan in the hydro cut

Land of the Snow

The canyon was deep for the beginning of January and again, mostly untouched. We had plenty of stucks and sleds on their sides, but after a day of hard riding, we were only a 2-km ride back to camp. It was great snow to break in my new 850 Summit, get familiar with it, work on set-up, and dust off the off-season cobwebs.

The canyon is a snowmobiler's playground!

We were optimistic that we would avoid the typical cold temperatures that are all too common in Northeastern Ontario by heading north for the first weekend of January, as opposed to the end of the month. No luck—we were faced with highs of -17°C and lows of -30°C.

On a chilly -25°C morning, you need to make sure to warm up the sleds.

However, if you are dressed appropriately the temperature is not an issue. I wore Klim insulated outerwear, base layers, boots and mitts and I was never cold. Actually, there were times when we were playing in the canyon itself that I was too warm. The right gear or the wrong gear can make or break your sledding experience, and while riding in Abitibi I was beyond comfortable in my Klim gear. 

Klim gear is Northeastern Ontario cold-approved .

Weather is uncontrollable. Don’t let it hinder your ability to get out and explore the OFSC tour loops and trails, especially at the beginning of the snowmobile season. As a passionate snowmobiler, you should be willing and prepared to chase snow, find snow, play in snow, and enjoy the adventure with friends too—that’s what winter is all about!

I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend with best friends!

It's not the miles you put on your snowmobile that matter. What you'll remember next year is the pure happiness of finding deep snow. The memories of an incredible adventure like the one we had in Abitibi Canyon will last a lifetime. 

Click on the map below to design your own adventure to Abitibi Canyon using the Go Tour Interactive Trip Planner.

About Katie Harris (Erb)

Having travelled 34 countries around the world, Katie is most at home riding snowmobiles in Northern Ontario. She's also passionate about trucking, travel, geography, and other motorsports.  

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