Winter Weather Forecast 2021-2022

Jeff McGirr is back with his resource-packed winter prediction to help you plan your snowmobile season. What's the weather going to be like for Ontario snowmobilers this winter? Read on and find out!

Editor's Note: Click here to see our prediction for the 2023-24 Ontario snowmobile season.

Let’s start the winter of 2021-2022 off with GREAT NEWS!!!! Snowmobile sales and participation numbers have hit an all-time decade-high! The International Snowmobiles Manufacturers Association reported a whopping 16% increase in North America in 2020-2021. This, my fellow riders, is a tremendous sign for a resurgence in our beloved sport! More sleds means more riders and this results in more dollars for the trails we love, groomers, bridges, signs, and more. Inside these numbers are record youth snowmobile sales which is also a great sign for the future of our sport!

However, I know you’re not here to find out about sled sales—this is something you already knew as I’m sure you’re seeing more friends and family upgrade and come back! What you’re really here for is finding out who will get the best snow? What will the snowstorms be like? Where will the best riding be? And of course, why all signs point to this winter being better than many before! This article is a snowbank full of snowmobile-specific winter forecast knowledge—you’re in the right place and I’m happy to see you here! 

The Real Experts

Let’s start off with the real experts, these are our meteorologists, academics, and climatologists. They’re well-educated and share a similar level of passion for weather events as you do for snowmobile events.

Doug Gillham of The Weather Network shared his comprehensive outlook for the entire country. In this detailed article, he noted that the early part of the fall in Ontario will be warmer than normal—which I’m ok with. After the torrential biblical rainstorm that most of Ontario saw in late September, we need time for the swamps to drain down and trails to dry out. Gillham went on to say this about the second half of fall in Ontario: “a pattern change during late fall should bring an earlier arrival to winter weather, and more winter weather leading up to the holidays than we have often seen over the past 25 years.” Doug furthered his analysis with “overall we expect that the weather during December will be more suitable for skiing than golf. This should include an abundance of lake effect snow across the traditional snowbelts, which are located east and southeast of the Great Lakes.” 

The second expert source for this winter’s forecast is Mark Sirois. Mark is an IT professional by day, but his passion is weather forecasting and he is affectionately known as The Weather Whisperer. Mark is a member of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society and in late September released a very detailed winter forecast which you can read in full below. The Weather Whisperer revealed that “Overall I think this winter will be a bit similar to 2017-2018. That winter was a weak La Niña on the heels of a moderate La Niña the preceding winter just like we will have this season. The first half of winter should be colder than the second half but as a whole, it should be a colder winter overall compared to last year and to average. It also should be snowier as the storm track likely will bring a series of Nor’Easters scooting up the east coast.” What I really like are Mark’s three maps that he’s produced—these give a fantastic visual of winter not only in Ontario but across North America. 

Trusted Modelling

In September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a La Niña Watch for the upcoming winter season. The NOAA says that La Niña conditions are favoured to continue throughout the Northern Hemisphere 21-22 Winter. The scientists say that there is a 70-80% chance that La Niña conditions will last right through until February 2022. So, what does this mean for us in Ontario? La Nina events have powerful effects that traditionally produce jet stream patterns that produce lower than average temperatures in Ontario. Take a look at the maps below and you can see how La Niña will affect the jet stream and, subsequently, our winter. You can easily visualize when cool and wet air meet and channel over the Great Lakes how this produces an abundance of lake effect snow and a consistent storm track. 

The BIG 5

In previous forecasts I’ve written about rising water levels and that our biggest lakes have been filled to the brim, this isn’t quite the case as we head into 2022. For example, for the first time in more than seven years, the water level in Lake Superior is on par with the lake’s long-term average. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Great Lakes basin—which includes all five Great Lakes—saw less than average rainfall over the last year. Lake Ontario is the exception as it rose by about 2 inches. The prediction here is that throughout the remainder of 2021 water levels on the great lakes are expected to stay below the record highs however most of the lakes will stay above their long-term averages. Fact: Scientists have been recording the water levels of the Great Lakes since 1918. The summary here is that our natural snow-making machines are still topped up with water and when the wind blows, they will be ready to produce their glorious lake effect bands. This news is also good for cottage and marina owners who’ve been challenged by the high-water levels and strong fall storms that in some cases destroyed shorelines and nearby infrastructure such as docks and boathouses. 

Thank A Farmer

This article wouldn’t be complete without referencing the Farmers Almanac. If you ate today, thank a farmer. If you snowmobile this winter, thank a farmer. Farmers represent a large portion of the generous landowners who allow us to have trails on their land, so when out riding please do stay between the stakes and on the trail so that we’re able to ride in future seasons. The Almanac is calling for a “Frosty Flip Flop Winter” and that we should be ready to “weather the storms.” The Almanac’s prediction for Ontario notes that we should expect above-average snowfall for Northern Ontario and colder than average temperatures for Southern Ontario. It goes on to predict for 21-22 that we need to be prepared for storms that will in some cases bring mixed perception, by the end of the winter we will all just be wishing for sunny days and dry conditions. 

The Wilderness Intelligence

The “in-the-woods” knowledge of Backroads Bill Steer is always a favourite of mine. Bill now has a complete exhibit at the North Bay Museum which highlights his more than 30 years of backroads exploration work in Northern Ontario. Bill noted in a Bay Today article, “'The beauty and the heritage of northern Ontario is on the backroads and the backwaters and there isn’t always a ton of information on how to get there and I felt like it was my job to make those links and connections.”

I had the opportunity recently to meet with Bill, campfire side after a great hike from the Canadian Ecology Centre in Samuel De Champlain Provincial Park, and Bill had this to say about our upcoming winter: “Four parts, as always, as to predicting what is to come for all of us: When will it start, how much snow, how cold will it be, and when will spring be sprung?!”

Bill went on to say,

“Snowmobilers will be happy to know winter is going to start a month earlier than normal. There are so many telltale signs this year starting with the early exit of the songbirds, that was a significant indicator. Even the plants seemed to start their fall transition leading into dormancy. The beavers started to gather more for their feed beds earlier this year, another indication of an early winter. Spring was really early this year, I predicted that would happen last year. “

I probed Bill further—with so much talk about climate change in recent years I wanted to know what his thoughts and findings were.

“The vagaries of climate change extremes are making natural indicator predictions more difficult but Mother Nature still knows best.” Bill detailed that based on all-natural indicators “it will be an overall mild winter, with no significant prolonged cold spells or overabundance of snow accumulation. Further again it looks like we will see an early spring.” Bill went on to say, backing up his claim:

“The beaver lodges are not looking like they are lathered with a lot of mud, so again a milder winter. The geese...I have talked about them before...they’ve been flying a steady sky trail...high in the sky...this year they are in a hurry with fewer stops. In the woods, the bears seem to be really active...more active than normal, but it was a terrible berry crop this past summer and with an early winter looming they will be enthusiastically bulking up—secure your garbage! Summer vacationers the hummingbirds just seemed to disappear by the end of August, headed back south, Blue Jays who are year-round residents have been unusually more raucous than previous years.”

Trees are always a good sign, noted Bill, highlighting that their conifers, particularly the red and white pines have shed a great deal more needles this year—a sign the trees are ready for an early spring and growth.

Overall, Bill reassured me “You can bank on the trails being open, early snow accumulation, and as predicted a month or so early winter start means you could be riding the trails before the holiday season.”

Back Roads Bill doing what he is known for at the Indigenous navigation rock northwest of Ignace. At this point, you can go in five different waterway directions. Photo credit: Ali Steer

The Sledders Pulse

I’ve seen shipments of everything from dishwashers to Xboxes delayed for several months while prices for items like lumber and plastic resins have skyrocketed. I’ve had tires on order for my YZ250X for almost a year now! I’m sure you’ve felt it as a snowmobiler and powersports enthusiast—just how strong the demand is for these great sports. Long waitlists at dealerships for new and used sleds, ATVs, SXS, PWCS, dirt bikes, motorcycles, and, of course, boats mean the demand is at an all-time high.

Existing, returning, and new riders are hungry for experiences out in the great wilderness and rural lands of Ontario, please be kind to your fellow snowmobilers and support your fellow riders especially the new ones. It’s also important we support our local rural businesses—they need us more than ever.

Purchasing your OFSC permit is much more than gaining access to the trails, you’re a part of making it happen! Each dollar counts and the more we have as snowmobilers the greater the resources! Of course, don’t forget to give the groomer operator a thumbs up or thank a club volunteer or generous landowner.

My final advice for snowmobilers is to treat yourself to that trip to a lodge or the snow tour you’ve always wanted to do! Order the steak or the Northern Big Breakfast! You deserve it! All of us are Ontario Snowmobiling and we need to embrace how lucky we are to have what we have! 

The Prediction

An Early Start

All factors above point to an early start to winter. It appears as if the transition will be sharp and occur sometime in mid-late November with December producing set-up freeze conditions, followed by an ample snowy base. The merger of expert prognosis, calculated modelling, The Big 5 wetness, Farmers Almanac, and of course Bill’s wild intelligence tell me this is almost certainly going to happen! I’m ecstatic for an early start. So tune 'em up now, get those new deck boards on that bridge, and plan and book an amazing snowmobile adventure early.


The Big 5 Lakes are holding their own, although not at the record levels we’ve seen in past years there’s still plenty of water to fuel the lake effect snow machine. This matched with the predicted direction and flow of the jet stream, enhanced by La Nina means that the lake effect bands should set up dropping copious amounts of that white gold in the riding key areas!


It looks like La Niña is going to last throughout most of this winter season. If it sets up like predicted and lasts through February we should have prime riding in the North well into March and maybe even April. We need cold before snow and based on all factors considered we’re going to get it. The Weather Whisperer is predicting the return of the Polar Vortex across much of Ontario, his prediction notes the Polar Vortex should make multiple frequent appearances. The combination of an early start to winter, Polar Vortex events, La Nina conditions and the Big 5 mean we’re likely to see multiple heavy lake effect snowstorms throughout the season! Groom those Whites Ribbons!


Backroads Bill warns us we better be ready for an early start to winter, and the Farmer’s Almanac is telling us that we need to be ready to weather the storms. Forecasters in touch with the wilderness are putting us on notice, the essence of their predictions is that we’re in for a good ole fashion Canadian Winter. It’s more than likely than not we will see a significant decade notable winter in Ontario, yes some areas may experience bitter cold while others get hammered with snow flip-flopping back and forth! All good news! The animals and plants may be telling us this winter will come in like a lion and out like a lamb, so please ensure your verifying ice and trail conditions prior to squeezing the throttle. 

The Last Word

This winter’s going to be awesome! It’s likely to be one of the best for snowmobilers in the last twenty-plus years! Last year I had the opportunity to introduce my son to snowmobiling. I'm grateful and fearful at the same time of the motorsports little monster I’ve created, mostly for my wallet! My point is the memories and experiences we’re sharing are truly priceless! My advice to you is to be grateful for what you have, to slow down and enjoy each moment, and of course to just get out and ride when the snow is plentiful and the trails are open. If there’s one thing you can be sure of in Northern Ontario, it’s that winter is guaranteed! See you on the trails.

Get your OFSC permit now.

Check out our Ontario snowmobiler’s bucket list.

Tips for getting ready for snowmobile season.

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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