The Marathon Sno-Kickers snowmobile club held their annual ‘Snocial’ on Saturday.
The event welcomed over 60 snowmobilers of all ages from the nearby towns of Marathon, Manitouwadge, and White River, and from as far away as Hearst. Meeting up at the Manitouwadge ‘Gateway project’ at the corner of highways 614 and 17, the riders enjoyed an all-you-can-eat barbecue lunch of burgers, hot dogs, chili, doughnuts, and hot beverages for a donation of $20, which also entered their names into a draw for some fun prizes.
The Sno-Kickers Snowmobile Club, established in 1990, has been operated by the Marathon chapter, under the umbrella of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) since 2019. A seasonal trail permit, which runs about $200 (daily passes are available) can be obtained online from the OFSC. The money raised from these permits is used to groom and maintain the more than 300 kilometers of trails that wind their way around the region. The grooming machines, which are in operation most days of the week throughout the season, travel at an average speed of only eight kilometers an hour and cost about $350 in fuel to prepare 100 kilometers of trail. Only about 60% of snowmobilers using the trails have a permit; those without one can face a fine of $225.
Local communities and businesses generously donate funds and facilities to the club. They recently received a sizable grant from the Community Development Assistance Fund, which will allow the club to erect new signs, warm-up shelters and improve water crossings; all elements which will make the trails safer and more comfortable.
Craig Colbourne, the Sno-Kickers club president, suggests riders carry a safety kit containing fire starting tools, dry clothing, and other survival gear, as one will never know when they’ll need it. Craig recently experienced a safety incident of his own; the ice he was testing in preparation for the ‘Snocial’ broke beneath him, dropping him waist deep in the frigid water.
Despite the hazards, he loves to ride the trails.
“When you ride a snowmobile, you can turn off the world and live in the moment,” Colbourne says. “You get to see places you can’t experience in other seasons. The scenery and the wildlife, they’re just amazing.”
Not everyone rides for the serenity of the trails. A group of young men showed off their machines, and talked enthusiastically about the thrill of the sport. They, too, have had their mishaps, but they enjoy the sport too much to let something like a damaged engine or a broken body part to stop them from enjoying the adventure.
At the age of twelve, a rider can take a course and write a test which will grant them a snowmobile license until they are 16 and obtain their Ontario driver’s licence.