A long-time cross-country skier takes issue with snowmobiles sharing Shuswap trails designated for skiers and creating unsafe conditions.
Adrian Kelly, a frequent user of the Larch Hills ski area, says it’s not uncommon for him to see snowmobile tracks on the cross-country ski trails, despite clear signage and boundaries designating them for non-motorized use.
“It has been happening for quite some time. What happened this year is they have been doing some logging on the north side of the trails, off the 110 forestry road and they have been coming in that way,” he says.
He notes there are many potential risks of sledders and skiers sharing the same trails.
“If you look at a ski track there is a line on each side and a bump in the middle so your skis don’t cross. But when a snowmobile leaves tracks and you end up coming down a fast stretch, nothing stops them from going side to side so it becomes quite scary,” he says. “I am 69, some of us are in our 70’s, we had to put up an advisory because it is too fast and too scary after the snowmobilers have been on some spots.”
Larch Hills Nordic Club vice president Ed Bouma says, while there can be hazards when sledders use ski trails, the majority of sled track reports come from the backcountry, off the main trails.
“It could be in some ways dangerous because the skiers are not expecting the crusty, packed trails snowmobiles leave,” he says. “We have put up some signs up to try and deal with that, but it isn’t usually a problem. Most of the sledders and ATV’ers have been fairly respectful of our management area. When they see areas that are groomed, they tend to avoid it. We have a good relationship with sledders most of the time.”
While he says the club would prefer sledders avoid the Larch Hills, he notes it is not technically illegal, and all they can do is report the sledders for using graded forestry roads to access the Larch Hills – since it is illegal to ride a sled on maintained roads.
Sandy Milne of the Salmon Arm Snow Blazers snowmobile club says she can empathize with those who may be frustrated with damage to the groomed trails, but notes the club has no control over what their members do outside of the Fly Hills recreational area they maintain.
In fact, Milne notes the Snow Blazers have their own troubles with unauthorized users tearing up snowmobile trails with larger off-road vehicles, so they can understand the frustration.
“Basically anything that is trackless can cause damage to the trails,” she says. “Snow-bikes are welcome, but other vehicles like 4×4 trucks or jeeps, they cause all kinds of damage to the trail.”
Sledders can find information and maps on groomed trail locations and popular sledding routes free of pedestrian traffic by visiting www.shuswaptourism.ca, or the Snow Blazers website at www.sasnowblazers.ca.