Canada’s destructive, and deadly, snowmobile obsession

As the popularity of snowmobiling grows, so does the tally of gruesome deaths and accidents

Clint Pelletier, of Edmonton, Alta., is silhouetted while loading his snowmobile onto a trailer after snowmobiling with his wife at Mount Renshaw near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. Five snowmobilers died Friday in a major avalanche in the Renshaw area east of McBride. (DARRYL DYCK/CP)

Clint Pelletier, of Edmonton, Alta., loads his snowmobile onto a trailer after snowmobiling near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016.  (DARRYL DYCK/CP)

If you’re a snowmobiler who wears a helmet, as is the law in Ontario, you should theoretically never have to visit Dr. Bruce Pynn.

And yet, the oral surgeon in Thunder Bay still sees between five to 10 patients each year with grisly facial injuries after flying over the handlebars of their snowmobiles—or right into them. “For facial fractures, it’s mostly just people who jump on without a helmet and then have a horrendous crash,” he says. That’s to say nothing of all those snowmobilers in the region who smash something other than their face.

Others aren’t so lucky. In Thunder Bay, and elsewhere, many riders fail to walk away from their mangled machines. In just the past week, five snowmobilers died in an avalanche near McBride, B.C., despite being part of a group rescuers described as “very prepared.” Meanwhile, in Ontario, two more snowmobilers perished in a collision in the province’s cottage country, a third drowned after falling through the ice and a fourth died after striking a snow mound and vaulting into the trees. Earlier in January, a 65-year-old Australian tourist died after he lost control of his sled while descending Whistler, B.C.’s Blackcomb Mountain during a guided New Year’s tour. Also that month, a father and his 14-year-old son collided head-on near their cabin in eastern Manitoba. Both died at the scene.

Related: An avalanche survivor breaks his silence

It’s not as though 2016 is a particularly deadly year, either. As many as 50 people die in snowmobile accidents annually in Ontario and Quebec alone. Another 1,200 or so Canadians are treated in hospitals with snowmobile-related injuries, according to the most recent data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Moreover, snowmobile injuries tend to be more severe than those suffered by participants in other winter sports like skiing, snowboarding or hockey, which makes sense given snowmobiles are 250 kg off-road machines capable of speeds in excess of 100 km/h.

While Canadians are regularly plunged into fits of introspection following a particularly violent hockey hit, the country routinely delivers a collective shrug when faced with year after year of deaths and injuries involving our other national pastime—snowmobiles. “The more familiar you are with an activity, the less risk you see in it,” says Pamela Fuselli, a vice-president and spokesperson for Parachute, a charity that focuses on injury prevention. The group is particularly concerned about children, given that four kids under the age of 16 die annually in snowmobile accidents. Nor is it only a question of safety. Reckless riders have become the bane of some communities, while environmentalists are concerned about the impact on Canada’s pristine wilderness and wildlife. Still others complain about having to share trails with noisy motorized sleds.

Add it all up and the conclusion seems inescapable: Snowmobiles are as Canadian as hockey or moose, but, left unchecked, they’re also at risk of becoming a wintertime menace.

A helicopter flies past a snow-capped mountain top near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. Five snowmobilers died Friday in a major avalanche in the Renshaw area east of McBride. (DARRYL DYCK/CP)

A helicopter flies past a snow-capped mountain top near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016.(DARRYL DYCK/CP)

The Canadian version of the snowmobile, or Ski-Doo, was invented in 1922 in Valcourt, Que., by Joseph-Armand Bombardier, who strapped a Model T engine to a pair of wooden sleighs. The contraption was driven by a huge, whirling rear propeller—a design so obviously dangerous that Bombardier’s father apparently ordered his son to immediately dismantle his creation.

Nearly a century later, there are more than 600,000 legally registered snowmobiles in Canada and the sport’s popularity appears to be growing. Canadians bought more than one-third of the 151,000 snowmobiles sold worldwide last year, according to statistics kept by the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association. Meantime, there are hundreds of snowmobile clubs across the country that build and maintain some 112,000 km of trails, produce annual financial reports and carry liability insurance. Many have also received considerable government support—one longtime observer of political support for the sport, Sun Media’s David Akin, has noted that in 2012 alone, Quebec-based snowmobile clubs received nearly $1 million* in grants from the former Conservative federal government in the span of just a few weeks. Much of that money went toward buying state-of-the-art grooming machines, costing as much as $240,000 a piece. “It’s not the mom-and-pop show it used to be years ago,” says Dennis Burns, the executive director of the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations.

Yet for all the investments in infrastructure, the sport retains its original whiff of danger. Every year the onset of snowmobile season is accompanied by reports of riders who crash into trees, rocks or fences, or fall through ice on streams, rivers and lakes (statistically speaking, there are several factors that make a snowmobile injury more likely: riding off a trail, driving too fast, riding at night, drinking alcohol and not wearing a helmet). Not only do all those preventable deaths and injuries cause much anguish and heartache for friends and family, they also carry a very real cost for society. Officials in Sudbury, Ont., recently told the CBC a typical snowmobile rescue costs taxpayers upward of $1,000, depending on the situation, and involves as many as 10 firefighters and several pieces of equipment. Rescues that take place in the mountains, meanwhile, are even more expensive, since they require the scrambling of helicopters and their crews, as was the case in mid-January when four snowmobilers from Alberta got lost near Golden, B.C.

Canada’s complex relationship with the snowmobile is illustrated by recent events in Gander, N.L. Snowmobiling is popular in the town of 11,000 people, given its proximity to a network of trails and its reputation as Canada’s snowiest community, with an average annual snowfall of 443 cm. But many locals are irate after a group of unscrupulous riders tore up the local golf course, damaging 12 of 18 greens and tee boxes. “There are three or four greens with big slice marks in them from the snowmobiles’ carbide runners,” says Bert Peddle, the golf course’s president, an avid snowmobiler himself. In Nova Scotia, meanwhile, a snowmobile and “side-by-side” all-terrain vehicle recently wreaked similar havoc on the Digby Pines golf course. In Hearst, Ont., an airplane pilot was forced to abort a landing last week because snowmobiles were on the runway. And a week earlier, police in St. John’s arrested a man who was brazenly riding his snowmobile on a downtown street. At times, it seems like the entire country has gone snowmobile-crazy.

Even those who keep their sledding outside city limits are being decried as disruptive. Ontario’s Woodland Caribou Provincial Park has been phasing out snowmobiles over the past decade because of concerns the packed trails they form make it easier for wolves and other predators to prey on endangered caribou. In Alberta, conservationists are calling for a ban on off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles, in parks on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains because of their impact on headwaters and wildlife. In B.C., the Valhalla Wilderness Society wants a crackdown on snowmobiles in the province’s Interior because it says their whining engines are pushing endangered mountain caribou into areas where they are more vulnerable. “The difference is in how snowmobiles are used these days and their sheer numbers,” says Craig Pettitt, 68, a Valhalla director, referring to the growing popularity of powder-capable alpine machines. “I’m seeing them on backcountry I wouldn’t even ski on.”

There’s even a debate about snowmobile use in Whitehorse, of all places. Keith Lay, the president of the Active Trails Whitehorse Association, says his group is protesting local bylaws that allow snowmobiles access to trails that are otherwise off-limits to ATVs and other motorized vehicles. “There is a debatable belief among those in power that snowmobiles have a negligible impact on both the environment and on other users,” Lay says.

Burns, the national snowmobile council head (and a longtime enthusiast himself), is among those who believe snowmobiles have a light touch. Moreover, he argues it’s unfair to single out snowmobiles when it comes to safety since all winter sports carry inherent risks. “Snowmobiling in Canada is as big as recreational fishing,” says Burns, citing estimates the industry adds $8 billion annually to the Canadian economy. “And if you live in Mary’s Harbour in Labrador, having a snowmobile isn’t merely an option—it’s your only winter transportation. It’s a way of life.”

Maybe so, but for so many others it’s a fatal thrill ride.

CORRECTION, 4 Feb 2016: An earlier version of this story incorrectly cited the amount of federal money given to Quebec snowmobile clubs during a two-week period in 2012, as reported by Sun Media’s David Akin. We regret the error.

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Canada’s destructive, and deadly, snowmobile obsession

    • What a negative, doorknob, twerp. Did you drive your deathtrap civic to work today? Strap on a set and write about something you actually know something about. Silence? I thought so.

      • Sled heads are such crybabies. Go climb back on your machine and take a spin to cool off you sissy. It’s probably the only thing you’ll be mounting this winter. Just don’t drive it on my land. I’ve got some surprises waiting for the next illiterate sled-head who can’t read a NO TRESPASSING sign. I hear repairing those things is expensive.Of course I would never, ever booby-trap the inviting trails on my land. That’s illegal. But the damn frost keeps pushing those rocks up way out of the ground so they’re lurking just below the surface you know. Crazy what nature does sometimes.

          • I usually log in as Goat Felcher but forgot my password for that one. Congrats on knowing what mudballing means though. Urban Slang dictionary is great isn’t it?

        • “I’ve got some surprises waiting for the next illiterate sled-head” your words Mud Baller, meaning you intend to harm snowmobilers. Thats illegal and I would ask that MacLeans immediately report this user to the OPP as he is breaking the law and may be the exact person Police are currently looking for in regards to multiple intentionally set hazards on Ontario snowmobile trails. Let’s all find out who this person is and get his name out there so we can have him properly dealt with by the Police.

          • Screw off loser. I live in the NCR. Never even been to the London area. And I expressly denied setting boobytraps as they are illegal. I left just enough room for doubt – somehing for the sled heads to think about next time they venture onto private property. If you want to falsely and publicly link me to specific crimes I had nothing to do with, we will see who ends up in court defending himself.

          • So you don’t have “some surprises waiting”. There’s no room for doubt there. You stated intent, I’m not the loser here. You have made it known you wish to harm snowmobilers. If you want to take me to court for asking the law to come into a situation where the law seems to have been broken by your own admission then feel free. I’m pretty sure being a concerned citizen isn’t against any law here in Canada yet.

          • Go to the police then. That is your right. MY right is not to be publicly and falsely accused of crimes I had nothing to do with. You challenged me to use my real name in another post. Lucky for you I didn’t. Had you publicly linked my real name to the sabotaging of a trail in the London area, I’d be talking to a lawyer about a lawsuit right now. Just be damned thankful you were only able to falsely accuse a pseudonym.

          • Mud Baller stated: “I’ve got some surprises waiting for the next illiterate sled-head who can’t read a NO TRESPASSING sign. I hear repairing those things is expensive.Of course I would never, ever booby-trap the inviting trails on my land. That’s illegal. But the damn frost keeps pushing those rocks up way out of the ground so they’re lurking just below the surface you know. Crazy what nature does sometimes.”

            Mud Baller, a good attorney would argue from your quoted statement above that you have knowledge of rocks on your property that could cause serious and in your words “expensive” damage to a snowmobile.

            From you using the words “booby-trap” one could argue that you’ve thought of booby trapping the “inviting trails on my land”?

            Do you have No Trespassing signs every few meters on circumference of your property? Would it be possible for a young snowmobile rider who’s riding fatigued to become dis-oriented and enter onto your property without knowing he/she is on private property?

            I sure hope you’re not some sick individual who deep down wants to see someone seriously injured or die for trespassing? What’s wrong with you?

          • You’re a riot. I wouldn’t be facing an ‘attorney’ in a Canadian court now would I? They’re known as “barristers and solicitors” under the Common law. Occasionally in Quebec they will use ‘attorney’ as a slangy English substitute for avocat. Don’t be confused by the Office of the Attorney General of Ontario, that’s just Ontario’s name for Ministry of Justice. If you’re ever arrested, don’t tell the cops you want an attorney – tell them you want a lawyer. If you ask for an attorney, they can claim you never asked them for a lawyer (and technically they’d be right) and they could just keep on questioning you.

            You’re welcome for the civics lesson. Consider it a chartiable service I offer for under-educated snowmobilers. Kind of like adult literacy class.

          • MB, I’m not sure what terms are used in your justice system and hopefully I won’t need to. I would’ve much rather had you tell me you’re a decent human being and not hoping for another human being to become paralyzed, injured, or worse, die on your property. I can’t condone trespassing, it’s wrong, but I also know it’s possible I’ve trespassed unknowingly.

            And yeah, I went to Urban Slang dictionary to see what mud-balling was. Jesus H Christ tell me you’re not into that kind of behavior, WTF?

          • Not into that. Not into goat felching either (my other online handle). People take themselves way too seriously online. I deliberately call myself ridiculous things to try to prevent that from happening. As you can see, it doesn’t always work. And relax. I’m not looking to hurt anyone. My comment was borne of frustration, not out of some desire to maim someone. I grew up around people who used snowmobiles to run down coyotes and foxes for their pelts – it was source of income and fun for them, and not just a few people either. I used to hear the stories Monday morning in school. It was considered a valid winter pastime in the Interlake in MB where I grew up. And likely still is. (I see nothing about the behaviour of people I used to go to school with that would convince me things have changed at all.) That kind of behaviour gave me a life-long hate-on for snowmobilers. It remains with me still.

        • Mudballer, as a property owner, you have every right to expect people to not trespass on your posted property, but, I’m sure it’s not just snowmobilers, I would guess you also would take a dim view of 4 Wheelers, hunters, illegal loggers, and any other kind of trespass. Tresspassing is a criminal offense, but you seem to think that all snowmobilers are criminals when the truth is that 99.99% are law abiding and would never trespass intentionally on your property. I’m not sure where you get off attacking snowmobilers as a group. That makes as much sense as hating the entire human race because one person broke into your house.

        • Mud Baller you are a coward. Don’t worry the majority of us aren’t ditch bangers sledding low elevation near local property. It takes me 45 minutes in a truck to get up a FSR which our local club pays to maintain the road.

          Anyone who wishes people to get hurt or wreck their machines for your own benefit are pieces of shit.

          This article is so bad. People like to pick on sledders because they are too busy wrapped in bubble wrap and watching Netflix to understand what the outdoors are about.

          Our club cleans up garbage from high school parties up there, we make signage so it is suitable for family riding, we are very respectful of the environment and sled only in designated areas. The sledding community is tightly nit and nearly all I have met are very nice people. There are shitheads in every crowd and for some reason people are quick to assume all sledders are like this.

          Go back to your high horse about being smarter than sledders. I have a degree in mechanical engineering and gladly enjoy this great sport without talking down to people of less education.

          Stay away from BC and our beautiful mountains, you can hang out in the NCR and keep your ignorant statements to yourself.

          Nice comment about this girly sport ROFL. This article is about how dangerous it is, and how many deaths come as a result. You are the biggest troll I have seen in a long time. The people responding to your childish statements are making you look like a fool, and you keep thinking that you come out on top. You are not winning this argument, you look like a generalizing moron who has never actually sat down with a group of sledders.

  1. Wow, way to focus solely on the negative aspects of a sport. Lets look at the fighting, verbal abuse and concussions involved in all types of hockey. We could address the nearly 40,000 people a year that die in car accidents or the hundreds of thousands that are injured in vehicles. Heck nearly 10,000 people per year die from unintentional falls while in public. I think maybe we need some context here, better context. If in the injury and death stats you account for those who were not wearing a helmet and who were drinking and riding which are both completely illegal and not what the average rider would ever consider doing you will get a much different view of the sport. Heck nearly 40,000 Golfers a year are admitted to hospitals for injuries most of which result from head injuries. I think as a whole, considering a snowmobiler is controlling a 500 pound machine with a 100-175hp engine, we all do a pretty good job. Just because the 1% gets all the press doesn’t mean the 99% who do it right are part of a sport needing an overhaul. Wear a helmet, don’t drink and ride and ride within your limits, you do that (and besides the freak accidents that even happen in everything from bird watching to gardening) you’ll be alright.

    • Thank you AJ!! I will never read MacLean’s again!! Way to support the thousands that still have jobs in Canada in the winter. I have been on a sled since I was a child and have yet to be in an accident.

      • Well I made no mistake cancelling MacLeans rag years ago . Same old opinionated writing as years ago focus on the negatives and nothing on the positives . Every Canadian should save the snowmobile money and winter tourism in Canada and go spend it in another country . Or better yet become more of a bunch of couch potatoes than we already are . A big deal in Canada is a bunch of kids ripping up a golf course with sleds bad yes will they grow out of it yes probably . Look at the alternatives spend the money on pot hang around getting high and get hooked on Meth will they grow out of it ? If they are lucky they might . In rural areas the youth with sleds are the lucky ones they spend the money on gas for riding not sniffing . Change your papers name to our” View from T.O.” like it should be . Chris I have no idea whom would give you an award . But as a rural Canadian who has had a snowmobile for over 4 decades I would like to award you with the” Rotten Potatoes award” as your opinion stinks . Please stay in your office Chris where ever you are and be safe maybe wear a hardhat a ceiling tile may fall .

    • Very Well said AJ Lester,

      This is disappointing from a source so well respected as MACLEAN’s. The vast majority of this text slam sites events that are related to a minuscule percentage of the snowmobile population- it’s one sided and incomplete. The attempt to include any information related to the many positive elements of the sport is has been corrupted with intent in my opinion. I’m sure that Mr. Burns had quite a bit more to say than a one liner… did you ask about snowmobile trail impact environmental reports? or how about a quote from a rural business? what about the story about snowmobiling enabling someone .. heard of Tory Burt.. he’s an amputee that rides and loves snowmobiles and is in the running to become North Americas Top Snowmobiler!! .. i could go on & on…. You need to watch this video about what SNOWMOBILING is really about and then finish your research…..- THIS IS WINTER – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JwBtWQ3dF0

    • Well…there’s nothing more to say,this article just got smacked around.This is beyond ridiculous.

    • Why, so he can sit with the rest of you girly-men at the spa and trade stories about his sledding exploits while getting his eyebrows waxed? Quit talking about sledding as though it were some masculine pastime. You sissies couldn’t last a mile in the snow on skis or snowshoes. That’s why you resort to machines. You wouldn’t even get your lazy asses out to the woods at all in winter without locomotive power. Heated grips. Heated foot rests. Suits that plug into the machine and keep you all warm and toasty. Way to brave the elements Grizzly Adams. Now go back to doing what you do best – which is being a scourge on the winter landscape.

      • So we are girly men, why would you say that and then in the same breath talk about waxing eyebrows??
        Who the #$%& even does that?
        If you mean spa as in a log or shaq in the middle of the woods on the side of a trail then spa it is.
        Plug in this, heated that, funny coming from someone who probably has A/C and heated seats in their car. Or is it a gas guzzling truck to carry your manly snow shoes around.
        Funny thing is that it seems that if it is not of your opinion or that of the miss-guided author of this terribly written one sided article then 50k of us must all be wrong.
        Tell you what next time you are out exercising you right to be off in the woods doing whatever it is you claim to be doing that is so good for the environment, when you stop to eat at the road side restaurant ask them if they appreciate your 10 dollars or the thousands that snowmobiling brings to the otherwise dormant winter revenue season.
        Why did the author not pen about the causes that woman bring to the table and the money they raise for cancer. Oh that’s right it might put a positive on a negative story.
        People like you and the author are always giving 2 cents negative cents that does not bring anything to the table.
        That trail you walk on or snowshoe on would not be there if it wasn’t for snowmobiles, volunteers and lazy, sissy ass cottage and land owners like myself.
        There is lots to share out there, but you wannabe tree highers think you have the right to it all.
        You live off grid, wiping you tail with leaves, leAving no foot print behind? NO you don’t.
        I have seen so called naturalists camping leaving a mess behind that is there ling after the 2 stroke smoke is gone.
        This world is for everybody, but then again who wants to write a story with a positive spin on something?
        We all know it does not sell papers.
        I will leave you with this. I only landed on this site because of the snowmobile article. I am sorry that this is what McLean’s has stooped to.
        2 sides to every story, why not report some of the good things that we bring to the table instead of name calling and negativity.
        Ride on fellow rippers.
        Your mag dissapointed me.

        • Jeezus, edit for length would you? I’m not reading all that.

  2. Yup it’s dangerous, so is walking across the street. If I were you I’d just stay home from now on.

    • I would have expected a more balanced article from Macleans. The author has only focused on a very small percentage of riders who should probably not own snowmobiles. There are many positive aspects to snowmobiling that the author has failed to recognize. Sledders are very important to economies of many rural communities in Ontario & Quebec. There is a saying within the snowmobiling community that sledders only carry their wallets. They rent hotel rooms, buy food & gas in many small communities that would suffer economically if it was not for the snowmobile season. Perhaps the author should have tried snowmobiling before writing this unfair article.

  3. Subscription cancelled.
    sounds more and more like the enquirer or the star good think you can employ real journalists oh wait you can’t. Why don’t you find our how many trail passes are sold then look at number of accidents. Then look at how many stunt driving or dui charges there are in Ontario.

    Thanks for waistng my time and money.

  4. The only thing destructive about snowmobiling is arcticles like this one. They prove to be deadly to the career of the person writing them. All he focuses on in all his articles is negative BS like this.

  5. I definitely agree with AJ’s comments. Clearly the writer of this article has never experienced snowmobiling. We do it as a family sport and I look forward to riding with my family every winter. We have always told our boys to “ride your own race”, as in ride within your limits. We follow the rules and don’t ride on lakes that we do not know enough about, especially at night. Snowmobiling brings tourism dollars to small town Ontario, not only from Canadians, but also from people from United States. There are way more positives about snowmobiling and none of them have been mentioned in his article. Big thumbs down to him!

  6. From a U.P. Die Hard 2-Stroke Ski-doo Etec Loving Snowmobiler,

    Chris Sorenson, had your father JUST worn a condom, my brain would be better off from not having read your pompous propaganda, you low down, sht faced, twinkle-toed, Ck Sukr. Fk off and have a nice night!

  7. There are many more deaths on the highways and I would bet as many skiing. Yet you choose to focus your attention on a sport you obviously know very little about. Most provinces get no government funding for snowmobile infrastructure, all trails, bridges, signage and grooming equipment is purchased by the individual snowmobile clubs and their members through sales of trail passes and fundraisers. Volunteers do all the work running the clubs and looking after their trails. The local businesses benefit by selling fuel, food and lodging at a time when typically business is slow.

  8. Well about 10 times as many people drown in BC each year. Maybe we should ban all water sports.

  9. Terrible article that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface on what snowmobiling is all about. Yes, it is a more dangerous pastime than taking up chess for the winter, but a bit of common sense goes a long way. Check the ice before you cross the lake, stay on the marked trail, never ride alone, use that mushy grey thing between your ears and you’ll be fine! Absolutely no mention on the economic stimulus that snowmobilers provide to small communities throughout the winter months. Ontario has 30 000km worth of trail across the province, passing through hundreds of small towns with gas stations, motels and restaurants that would otherwise be starved for business through the winter. Snowmobile clubs are committed to providing high-quality trails for people to ride on, so that more people do stay on the trails, which are at least more of a controlled environment than riding around in the middle of nowhere. This takes specialized equipment, as mentioned in the article, which is expensive but is funded by permit sales. Also something to note is that the network of trails in Ontario in regulated by the MTO and has to meet their regulations. Perhaps MacLeans should look into the brighter side of Canada’s “other” winter pastime and see that it is far from the doom and gloom in this excuse of an article.

    • The mushy grey matter between the ears is precisely what snowmobilers are lacking.

      • The best part of reading your posts are that you are provided every reader with the evidence that you have even less of this mushy grey matter you speak of. If you actually had an inclining of knowledge on the subject your bashing you would probably know that the numbers of of Grizzly Adam type people you so highly talk about are actually buying snowmobiles to gain easier access to areas they ski. Also up until the last few weeks snowmobile related deaths/avalanches were well below those of back country skiing. Snowmobilers also take the time to educate them selfs in avalanche safety something that is still an uncommon thing to you and your Grizzly Adams brothers. Educate yourself before spewing absurd remarks making you look like and inbred imbecile.

        • I will have to find the article again, and it wasn’t from MacLeans, statistics now show that snowmobiles do now account for most of the winter sport deaths and injuries, including hockey

      • Hey tree hugging nut job you still talking?
        Your wasting electricity.

        • Snowmobilers know all about tree hugging. They end up wrapped around trees more often than any other demographic.

          • Mr Mudballer, my husband was one that ended up wrapped around a tree. He was, as I was told many times at his funeral, a safe driver. He was the one that made his way to the front to slow the group down, but on one particular night, he missed a turn and hit a tree.

            If you have up no trespassing signs and they are ignoring them, call the police. Booby trapping is a very bad idea. A young man in my area was killed by a wire that was placed across a road. With the power of the snowmobiles today, it doesn’t take much to throw someone off their sled. You don’t want to end up in prison for manslaughter over this.

            If the other commenters are correct and they are respectful, seeing the signs will make them turn back and go elsewhere.

          • I’m very sorry for your loss Bev and please accept my sincere apologies if my comments caused you any distress. That must have been hell to go through. My comments were aimed at the knuckledraggers in denial who attacked the author for daring to tell the truth. But I ought to have been far less offensive and far more sensitive. I am sorry.

          • Thank you Mud Baller
            My comments were truly from concern for you, I know there are people out there who are destructive and ignore no trespassing signs and private property signs. I just don’t want to see you end up in a bad situation because of them. Even if it’s a small number of people, if it’s your property and you don’t want them on it, you should have the right to say so, but don’t take matters into your own hands, that never goes well.

            You didn’t distress me. No worries

  10. They, snowmobilers, know the risks associated with this activity. They better be ready to accept the consequences. Being irresponsbile doesn’t make you a daredevil, it makes you foolish, or worse, dead.

  11. After an evening of comments I’m shocked Macleans has left “MudBallers” comments up on this page. I would suggest this coward who will not identify himself but has admitted he has intentionally placed hazards for snowmobilers report himself to the OPP as his actions are illegal, even if they are on his own private property. I would also ask that Macleans remove his posts and report him to the OPP as they are currently looking for a suspect matching this “MudBallers” MO – To cause harm to snowmobilers. He states “I have some surprises waiting” this is intent to harm snowmobilers. Macleans you need to get on this, planting hazards for a snowmobile on private land or public land is against the law. If folks trespass call the Police, but this person who is full of hate and disregard for the law is going to get someone killed and only you Macleans have his personal info. Do something about it.

    • See my reply to your other post. And be careful with your accusations. You snowmobilers seem to have an inate inability to recognize hazardous ice conditions, so let me help you out here – you’re on thin ice right now. Keep making false accusations and there will be legal consequences. You’ve been warned. This is one No Trespassing sign that you don’t want to ignore.

      • Are you kidding me! You are the one who said you have surprises waiting, you are the one who threatened, so don’t turn this around. And I have not linked you to anything, i have said Police are looking for someone who has done things similar to what you stated. SO if you’d like to come at me with the law I’m pretty sure I’m well within my legal right to be concerned. Maybe you should think more before hitting “Post Comment”. I’m a sledder and I’m concerned when I ride because of people like you. By the way who are you, I’ve posted my name, maybe you will post yours so we can see what your all about. If your not scared, then lets all be real here and lose the handle you hide behind.

        • I’m a sledder and I’m concerned when I ride because of people like you.

          Then my comment had its intended effect.

  12. Well Mr. Sorensen, all you did with this article is absolutely bash the sport myself and many others live for. Making articles like this only hurts the riders that respect land owners and ride within their limits. We should encourage respectful riding and be spreading the word about the great sport of snowmobiling. Instead you brought out all the negative things that could happen if an idiot drives a snowmobile. To all my fellow snowmobilers, ride hard, ride safe, and most importantly RIDE WITH RESPECT!

    • If all riders were like you, there would be no issue but you know they aren’t. There are people out there going too fast, drinking too much and destroying property. Sad but true.

  13. Did anyone else notice the “1 Billion” reference, I believe it was 1 million. You need to check facts on just about everything in this article Mr Sorensen.

    • why, he does not know, does not care!
      Hey why don’t you do an article on cell phones and driving, walking. Seen those idiots????
      Sell some rags with those articles,
      As for the ” MuddBaller” yup shows to the integrity of this fool.
      Is he really saying he would intentionally hurt someone for riding their snowmobile?
      This is just a sad and pathetic LITTLE man.
      He Mudballer identify yourself so that not only the police can find you, but all your neighbours as well. Sure they will appreciate knowing who you are.

      • My neighbours like me just fine and no doubt view sled heads with the same disdain I do.

        • Not sure what to say here that hasn’t been said The article is an uninformed mish mash of incorrect stats! The purpose of this article is what? To help make snowmobiling safer?? To protect snowmobilers from themselves?? To inform the uninformed of the general dangers of life?? Looks like one person is making threats as a result of this article, nicely done!! My name is Paul Gaudin and I am the President of HCSA. Mud Baller what is your name, and what do you do besides threaten folks?

          • My name is Mud Baller and I’m president of the Stittsville Mud Balling Association.

  14. I lost my husband in a snowmobile accident in 2009. You may not like what the author is saying but he’s right about fatalities, they are increasing every year. From what I was told, my husband was a very safe rider but on that night, for the first time ever, he was riding alone. The last group had loaded up on the trail and he was making his way home. He was killed about 10 minutes after leaving them. We will never really know why, he missed a turn on a trail that he knew very well. The bank flung him into the air, he hit one tree, the sled hit another. He died instantly. He wasn’t found until the next day. It will be 7 years this coming Sunday and we still miss him every damned day.

    Also, the comments here are pathetic, seriously. If you want to show that you aren’t destructive asshole, don’t make yourselves sound like them. You know there are idiots out there, way too intoxicated to be driving and going way too fast. I also saw a story last week where a person intentionally ran into a pregnant women when she walked out to ask them to stay off of her property, along with many other stories of people being hit, or nearly hit as they try to walk or ski on the trails. The trails are suppose to be for everyone, not just snowmobiles and you should be aware that you could meet up with people at any time.

    • I’m sorry for your loss Bev and in no way would ever disrespect you or your husbands memory. Unfortunate things happen in all sports which is precisely what the majority of us have been trying to outline. You referring to us as “destructive a-holes” isn’t called for. As I’ve already stated every sport, heck even society as a whole, has the 1% and this author and you are grouping all of us under that. And it’s unfair.

      We also need to be aware that snowmobiling fatalities have actually decreased over time, not increased, I believe the numbers in ontario are down almost 50% over the last 15 years because of advertising campaigns to inform people that drinking of any measure is completely unacceptable.

      A person running into anyone intentionally, thats colossally stupid. It’s one person in a group of sledders which are hundreds of thousands strong. What about the cyclist that drives into a pedestrian crossing the road, a driver of a car who has road rage, a skier who intentionally hits a snowboarder, a golfer who tee’s off towards a group he doesn’t like………. the list goes on. Just so you know the trails aren’t supposed to be for everyone unless they are multi use, the trails are for permit buying snowmobilers and if your cross country skiing or snow shoeing, riding an ATV or driving your car on an OFSC trail thats not a multi use trail you can be ticketed. But when it comes to snow shoeing and skiers every sledder I know is respectful as long as they are on the proper side of the trail.

      • I did not call you all a bunch of Assholes, I said the comments that I have read make it “sound like” it.

        You are reading different statistics than I am then. Fatalities have been on the rise steadily. Could be that every year they get faster and more powerful, and while some will still drive at a reasonable speed, others will be out there doing as much as the sled will allow. Go to youtube and watch some of the crazy stuff posted on there by snowmobilers that they actually title as funny or hilarious when actually, they are damned lucky to be alive. My family always had snowmobiles when I was growing up, they didn’t make one fast enough to kill someone (unless you went through the ice). My mother had an accident where she was thrown from the sled, her boots were still on the sled, she was sore and bruised but she didn’t even break a bone. My husband had a broken neck, arm, and leg, along with a punctured aorta and spleen. That was 7 years ago this coming Sunday, since then they have gotten even faster.

        I have no doubt that the vast majority of snowmobilers are safe and respectful, but so was my husband and he is now a statistic.

        I also don’t see why we have to always do this comparison thing. We are not talking about cars or skiers or whatever right now, we are talking about snowmobiles. It’s like the gun debate, if you say you think guns are dangerous it jumps to yeah but so are … Even snowmobilers have to admit that they can be dangerous. I agree that it’s a small percentage that are destructive to property and such but you know what they say about the squeaky wheel. You can be the safest rider out there, follow every rule in the book, that doesn’t mean that you are safe from the person who is out there drinking, driving too fast and taking turns too wide when you happen to be the one coming from the other direction on that same turn.

        Everyone please be careful out there. These are not toys, please don’t treat them as such.

        • Bev your comments are very honourable and I agree, there are many dangers out on the trail, and mountain when operating a snowmobile. And you have added a very real element to this debate, and I want you to know that myself and my family appreciate and respect your comments here about riding safe and within your limits, you couldn’t be more right. Thank you for what you have said and again I know the snowmobiling community’s hearts go out to you for the loss of your husband. God bless.

          • Thank you very much

          • Also, if you haven’t hear of them, please get a tek vest. They will protect your spine and organs in a crash. Even if you hit your handle bars, it could save you from broken ribs, I’ve had a broken rib, they are very painful. They could prevent you from being paralyzed too. There is a man near here, I had never heard of this, but in his collision he ended up paralyzed from the waist to the neck. He spent a year in a rehab facility, he can now feed himself but he has to put his head down to meet his hand. Imagine how many things he can no longer do.

          • Another thing to think about, since the time of my husband’s accident, our daughter got married, her brother walked her down the aisle. She didn’t even want to plan a wedding because her Dad couldn’t be there, she’s also had a baby, a beautiful little boy that will never know what an amazing man his Grampy was and how much he would have adored that little boy. He was also our son’s best friend, he missed him every day too.

          • Funny you mention the Tek Vest Bev, the fellow who designed it Steve Brand has been close personal friends of my family for 30+ years and lives the next lake over from us. I’ve been wearing one since his first early test products and never ride without. Like a helmet I consider it a necessity.

    • Actually the trails aren’t for everyone. They are closed to all wheeled vehicles, since they leave dangerous ruts. People are free to walk down the trails and do all the time. You will hear a sled coming well before they get next to you.

      If you want to highlight property damage caused by snowmobiles — fine, that’s your right. Highlighting the danger is also your right, but you don’t outlaw any activity because it’s dangerous. The list of recreational activities that lead to death is a mile long.

  15. I find it frustrating that people write articles about things they are totally uneducated about. One would expect that a writer for a national magazine would at least make a attempt to be educate himself before developing an opinion. One would also expect a Macleans article to have a little more substance than; snowmobiling is dangerous, snowmobiles cost tax payers money, snowmobiles are ruining Canadian nature. Unless I am missing something… that is all the author is trying to convey.

    The truth is, yes Snowmobiles CAN be dangerous. So what? Skydiving is allowed, skiing is allowed, dirt bikes are allowed, racing is allowed (on tracks) etc. I don’t see a point to identifying how snowmobiling can be dangerous.

    Moving on to the point how snowmobiles cost tax payer’s money. Snowmobilers pay tax on their machines, pay licencing fees, and more importantly stimulate the economy in small towns across the country who wouldn’t otherwise have any tourist income! The tragedy in “cottage country” mentioned in this article was on Go Home Lake in Muskoka. Ever been to Muskoka in the winter time? It’s not like in the summer, there are two kind of people: sledders and locals. Restaurants cater to sledders, trails are built to local gas stations, and resorts tailor their winter operations specific to sledding guests. None of these business owners were quoted in this article, but I bet they are pretty happy to see Polaris, Ski Doo, Artic cat and Yamaha badged jackets walk into their businesses. Go further north to Wawa and Timmons and it’s the same thing. Hunting and fishing for 3 months, sledding for the 4th. All the tourist money spent gets taxed and re-spent in the local economy and taxed again. (I wish I had the time to actually do an economic study specific to snowmobiling but there are other studies specific to sport if you look for them.)

    Regarding the final point how snowmobiles are a detriment to the environment, this statement is outrageous. New sleds burn cleaner than ever before. Even still, I can only imagine that the pollution from 115,000 sleds is far less than that of millions of unmaintained commuter cards, boats, and more. Also, most of the trails in Ontario go over private property (owners choice) un-used FROZEN swamps, summer roads, FROZEN farmers’ fields, and through forests. The trails are maintained by the OFSC which is primarily funded by OFSC members not by tax payer dollars. The only reason the OFSC gets tax dollars is due to economic stimuli. But back to the environment, the OFSC isn’t a bunch of rednecks that destroy everything in their wake. The OFSC works very hard with conservationist to protect the forests, build trail un-intrusively, build trails to highlight Canada’s natural beauty, and keep land owners happy. The sleds themselves run on the snow, they don’t tear up the ground like logging trucks do.
    At the end of the day what should I expect from the media?

    Somewhere between all the biases and slanted news casts there is the truth, we just need to find it ourselves.

    • Hey Mcleans give this man a column.
      well said. And not an abusive comment made.
      1% of trouble makers get 100% of the story.

      • Not sure about a column, but I’d definitely give him a shot at his GED. A literate – dare I say articulate – snowmobiler is a rare thing. We need to encourage him.

  16. Maybe…you guys took this too personally? He was giving a different side of the story than you are used to, that doesn’t make him a bad person. In fact, I called him today after reading the article to talk to him about tek vests, he seemed like a very nice man to me. He showed respect for my story when I said I had lost my husband in a snowmobile accident, he asked questions that I was more than happy to answer.

    There is good and bad in everything, unfortunately, it’s the bad that makes the news. I have written to several news programs after seeing a story on yet another snowmobile tragedy and suggested that they do a story on Tek vests, no one has shown any interest. I think a fatality is a bigger story than preventing one. I’m not sure that the author of this story will do one, but he was the first to show that he cared.

  17. I came across this article completely by accident. Guys (And Gals) why are you so upset? Almost no one reads this magazine anymore, and very few know or care about the author of the article. The author has probably never snowmobiled, bungee jumped, gone sky diving, water skied, or lived life outside of a book. This person researched a few facts any tossed an article together for a pay check.
    The “writer” has know clue. Don’t let it bother you.

  18. What a biased article, right from the very first statement. I thought that seat belts where suppose to prevent ALL injuries from car accidents??

    It’s not wonder news agency’s like this are failing, and soon to be extinct.

    Keep up the good work with the misleading articles, it seems to be doing an excellent job distracting your faithful sheep from the shortfalls of their savior.

  19. Wow. I used to respect Macleans magazine. What a stupid article. Why would you single out one sport like this? Any time you get off the couch there are going to be risks involved. There are always going to be people in any group that make it look bad.

  20. This article in Maclean’s Magazine places a very negative slant on an activity that benefits the economies of many provinces. There will always be people that go to extremes to abuse their rights and the media will always be there to report the negative aspects of these activities. The vast majority of snowmobilers follow good morals and ethics along the trails. They shouldn’t be painted with the same brush as the small percentage of people who chose to break the law and damage private property. Consider this: If every snowmobiler in Quebec and Ontario decided to pull out of the sport and instead, go south for an extended vacation, how much would the economies of these two provinces suffer? My wife and I decided to spend our winter vacation snowmobiling here in Canada this year. Our economy needs our support. Whether you cross country ski, downhill ski, skate, snowshoe, hike or snowmobile, consider taking advantage of what winter has to offer in this country.

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