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Declaring War On Riders Who Cause Trail Closures…

Not many riders in this field chose to stay on trail

This trail was closed thanks to riders wandering off trail. Photo © by Craig Nicholson

Related: Why Trails Don’t Open Early


Enough pussyfooting around. I’m really pissed off. I’m fed up with the “I-can-go-anywhere-I-want” mentality of some snowmobilers and how it’s hurting our favourite winter activity…

Stay On Trail – Bad Behaviours

Despite warning signs, riders illegally entered this field to avoid road running. Photo by Graham Snyder

I’m sick of snowmobilers causing trail closures. How? While supposedly trail riding, they cut corners in farmer’s fields, ignore stake lines, run stakes down and stray off the designated trails to play in the snow. Or they ride beside the trail, take unauthorized shortcuts, enter closed areas, damage crops or harass livestock.

Riders who engage in these unacceptable behaviours are basically thumbing their noses at everything the rest of us love about snowmobile trails riding.

I’m angry that we’re constantly losing trails because of these self-centred off-trail behaviours. And I’m upset at the selfish disrespect demonstrated for landowners. Snowmobile clubs, volunteers, fellow snowmobilers and organized snowmobiling in general suffer the consequences.

Permission To Stay On Trail

what happened to stay on trail?

Tracks almost everywhere but the actual trail. Photo by Meaford Ridge Runners S.C.

These disrespecters just don’t get it. They don’t care that snowmobile trails cross someone else’s land. These riders disregard all the effort and cost invested by clubs and volunteers on the trail. They ignore the fact that the trail exists only on the understanding that snowmobilers will stick to riding within that designated corridor.

This specified land use is not permission to ride willy-nilly over private property wherever and whenever you want. That’s called trespass. And when it happens, small wonder that all too often the outcome is permanent trail closure.

Stay On Trail – Consequences of Trail Closures

trail closed sign because riders did not stay on trail

This sign marks the end of another snowmobile trail. Photo by Hanover Neustadt S.C.

Where exactly do these disrespectful trespassers think the replacement for a closed trail will come from? It’s not as if a snowmobile club can just snap it’s fingers and – presto! –a new trail magically appears.

So today, our harsh reality is more closed trails. For the rest of us, this means more dangerous road running, more unexpected detours and more annoying dead-ends. It also results in decreasing trail connectivity. What’s more, it spreads an increasingly bad reputation for snowmobiling that sticks to each of us like the stink of fresh manure in a pasture.

Stand Up & Be Counted To Stay On Trail

I’m not so naïve as to expect that any trespassers will read this rant. Or react with anything but oblivion if they do. I know I’m preaching mostly to the converted.

But nodding your head in agreement with what I’m saying isn’t enough anymore. The integrity of our snowmobile trail network is gradually slipping through our fingers like powdery snow. Enforcement agencies don’t have the resources, inclination or time to help.

So the majority of so-called responsible snowmobilers must step up and start self-policing against the trespassers. Otherwise, a time will soon come when taking action won’t matter anymore because it will be too late. Many trails will be gone forever.

Before you know it, we’ll be sitting around reminiscing about the good old days. The not so distant past when we could snowmobile directly from community to community by trail. When we could actually get from here to there easily on designated corridors. Or when for clubs and volunteers, delivering snowmobile trails wasn’t so fraught with uncertainty, frustration and ill will. And when the snowmobiling community had a better reputation with our landowning neighbours.

Stay On Trail – Not About Backcountry Riding

backcountry riding is not stay on trail

Backcountry riding on public lands is different than wandering off trail on private property. Photo courtesy of Ontario Tourism.

Don’t get me wrong. This tirade isn’t directed against legitimate backcountry riders. These are riders who travel into the boonies away from snowmobile trails to play in the powder on public lands where it’s legal and allowed.

Rather, it’s targeted to wanna-be powder hounds on private property. Sledders whose self-serving substitute for legitimate backcountry riding is straying on and off or riding beside designated snowmobile trails. Or simply entering a piece of private property to ride without prior permission from the landowner. All for the purpose of laying fresh tracks across unmarked fields or in virgin snow on land they don’t own and aren’t supposed to be on.

To these disrespecters I say: Stay On Trail or Stay Home!

stay on trail or expect more road running

Will snowmobilers get this message or will there be more road running? Photographer unknown

And the rest of us need to act to help them do just that. Why? Because the consequences of their unacceptable behaviour has irreparable consequences. Like fewer trails for the rest of us to enjoy, unnecessarily longer distances to ride, and serious road running safety concerns. Plus, more wear & tear on our sleds. And overall, a less pleasant ride experience. To say nothing of contributing to the long-term demise of trail riding as we know it.

Stay On Trail Declares War on Trespassers

stay between stakes to stay on trail

Are these the only riders who stayed between the stakes? Photo by Meaford Ridge Runners

What Snowmobilers Can Do

How do we declare war on trespassers? By always ensuring that we stay on trail ourselves and making sure our families and friends do too. By calling out anyone in our group who doesn’t. And by refusing to ride with anyone who’s a habitual offender.

We can also take photos of identified disrespecters, posting them online and emailing them to the local club. Or take exception to anyone posting text or photos online depicting trespass behaviour. And yes, even by issuing the challenge when necessary to “Stay on trail or stay home.”

What The OEM’s Can Do

poster supporting stay on trail

Poster courtesy of International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association

Each snowmobile manufacturer also needs to do its part independent from what’s done collectively through their industry association. Increasingly, with the marketing of “crossover” sleds, their promotions are blurring the line between acceptable and unacceptable riding behaviour around snowmobile trails. For many of us, snowmobile trails are still the most popular place to ride their products and the manufacturers need to be very careful in their advertising, brochures and websites to support our trail networks and respect our landowners.

What The Media Can Do

stay in trail unless it's closed

Entering a closed trail is a sure way to cause even more problems – Photograph by John Poos

Same goes for the snowmobile media. The magazines, television programs and websites that live and breath snowmobiling must become active participants in promoting Stay On Trail or Stay Home. And their photos, editorials, articles and advertising need to unequivocally support that position when it comes to trail riding.

In recent years, drinking and driving have become socially unacceptable. Breathing second hand smoke has become a no-no. Now it’s time for the snowmobiling community to stop tolerating abuse of private property by making straying off any snowmobile trail crossing it socially unacceptable too.

Unless we declare war on trespassers now, I fear we’re doomed to be riding snowmobile trails that disappear out from under us like snow melting in the spring. And that’s certainly not a future I want to contemplate. What about you?

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The tips and advice in this blog are the opinions of the author, may not work in every situation and are intended only for the convenience and interest of the reader, who has the personal responsibility to confirm the validity, accuracy and relevancy of this information prior to putting it to their own use.


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