Craig Nicholson, widely known as the Intrepid Snowmobiler, had lots of good things to say about the trails he and his tour group were encountering on a six day trip to Eastern Ontario last week.
Interviewed while he was relaxing in the hot tub at the McIntosh Inn in Morrisburg on Monday night, February 6, Nicholson told local press he was impressed with what he and his group of five riders were experiencing in the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) District 1.
“The clubs down here are doing a fantastic job of grooming,” he said. “We have travelled about 800 km so far, and we haven’t run on more than five per cent bumpy trails.”
“They are doing everything they can with what they have to work with. They still have a base and all they need is two or three inches of snow.”
Nicholson is the National Tour Editor for Snow Goer Canada magazine.
“This essentially means I spend our winters snowmobiling. It’s fun, but it’s a job. You have to get the story. At the end of the day the reader should be able to pick up the magazine and do it [the trip] themselves.”
During the winter season, Nicholson says he and his group can log upwards of 12,000 km. “So we know what a quality trail is like. The guys are saying over and over again that the trails here are as good as anywhere. You can’t get lost on these trails. The signage is great.”
“The only place we’ve been to that is not on board is the City of Cornwall. The Riverside Club grooms as far east as they are allowed to go toward Cornwall.”
Nicholson says that while there is an ‘unofficial’ trail that goes into the city, “Cornwall is missing a huge opportunity.”
The Nicholson group started their tour in Perth and were running a six day itinerary in Eastern Ontario District 1.
While he says he often does a destination tour, a direct route point A to point B, this particular trip was a bit different.
Although there was a definite destination at the end of each day, such as the McIntosh Inn, last Monday evening, the group was “not taking the most direct route each day. We rode 300 km between Hawkesbury and Morrisburg today. We are trying to ride as many of the trails as possible.”
On Tuesday the group planned to leave Morrisburg and end up in Smiths Falls. But to get there they would take trails through Finch and the Bourget area.
Already this winter, Nicholson has been to northern Canada. In March his travels will take him to Alberta.
While he spends much of his winters on tour, the off season is when he does his writing.
He seeks out snowmobile-friendly experiences that will interest snowmobilers, avidly promoting the industry and the destinations he finds.
He points out that, “From a tourism perspective when Americans come up to ride in Ontario, quite often they cross the border and keep going north. There is no reason they can’t cross the border and stay at Cornwall or Morrisburg. The facilities are here.”
“There is also no reason why other Ontario riders can’t come here and stay at Perth or Kemptville, or Morrisburg. It is only a three to four hour drive from the Greater Toronto Area.”
“People don’t think east they think north. It’s really a hidden gem here.”
The Nicholson tour was sponsored by Ontario Tourism in partnership with Snow Goer Canada. Helping Nicholson to put it together were marketing organizations in Lanark, Prescott-Russell and Cornwall-Seaway Valley.
“The article will be out in the fall and it will be a six page feature. We are a national magazine and have a huge subscription base in Ontario.”
Nicholson rode a 2012 Ski-Doo GSX Ltd. 600 into Morrisburg and was accompanied by his wife Marsha, who rides with him on most tours. Four friends rounded out the six person group.
Nicholson says he prefers to ride in a group of six for photographic reasons. He has a core of 10-12 riders to chose from, many of whom own their own companies or are self-employed which allows them to get away easily.
“I have to make sure I have people who are reliable, who are good riders and who know what the mission is. That is first and foremost. They make it possible for me to concentrate on what I need for the story.”
Nicholson was obviously not disappointed in what Eastern Ontario had to offer as a snowmobile destination even though there wasn’t huge quantities of snow.
He suggested that while we all claim the winters are changing, “You can talk to people in the business and they can tell you about the winter 10 years ago, or 15 years ago, when there was no snow.”
“Ontario is so big, there is always winter somewhere,” he says. “If you are serious about snowmobiling you will find it.”