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What a difference a year makes. Many of you may recall last winter which saw snowfall levels well below normal in southern Manitoba. The result of that was a snowmobile season which started much later. In fact trails in the southeast only opened in early March and lasted only two weeks before mild conditions ended the season abruptly. This year, sledders have been using trails in the southeast for months already and according to Dave Boutang, Head of South East Sno-Riders, trails are in good shape.
"They're still in very, very good condition," notes Boutang. "But you have to take into consideration that we've got a tremendous amount of snowmobile traffic that we haven't had in past years. We're hoping that the reason for that is because our trail system is being groomed more often and it's in better condition." Boutang says there's no reason to believe trails can't be open another couple of weeks yet.
Boutang says Monday's snow was very welcome. "We were due for some new snow to mix in with the old snow to groom," he says. Boutang notes some of the holes along their trail system tend to get icy when it warms up. "This snow will be good, it will bring it back to late winter conditions as opposed to a lot of ice and stuff." But he says in a perfect world, the temperature would be about ten degrees colder.
South East Sno-Riders is attempting to groom the entire trail system once a week; a process that takes about 80 hours. Boutang says because of mild conditions in recent weeks, trails have taken a pounding. "That's forcing us to groom a little more often than we normally would," adds Boutang.
And who does most of that grooming? Boutang says he spends about 40 hours every week on the groomer. In fact nearly every hour spent on the trails this winter has been from the vantage point of a groomer, not his sled. Boutang says he's only been on his snowmobile twice this winter. "Look at it this way, I won't have to buy a new one next year," he jokes.
Trails in the southeast have seen a tremendous amount of traffic this winter, according to Boutang. "I was out on Sunday night grooming and we had traffic till just about one o'clock in the morning," he says. "That means that everybody is getting the most out of what they can."
Boutang would like to put out a word of caution to sledders. He says there are a couple of spots along the Voyageur Trail and Spurwoods Trail where logging trucks continue to clean up following the October ice storm. "They're going to be in there for a long time to come," notes Boutang.
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