Friday, January 13, 2012

The Trials of the Trails

From The Packet - Jan 12/2011
Many of us are waiting, as patiently as possible, for more snow to fall.  My Ski-Doo is still in the garage - likely yours is as well.

There was a time when I use to enjoy the anticipation of the first trip on Ski-Doo, but as of late, the joy of owning a snowmobile and riding it has been sucked out by the constant drum of what I call "The great trail pass debate".

Few would argue that the age of the groomed trail has come.  If the sport is to prosper as the demographic of riders get older and more bump adverse, we need to have groomed trails.  The challenge of this luxury however is determining who's going to pay and how its going to be done.

The Trail Pass system and the volunteer snowmobile associations were "concocked" to overcome this challenge.  Trail pass revenues were supposed to pay for the grooming and the associations are suppose to gather the manpower to run the groomers.  On both counts it isn't happening.

After two bad years on the east coast, snowmobilers have seen little to no value for their trail pass investment.  The 2010 winter offered little snow and Hurricane Igor damage broke the Trailway in 2011.  Can you blame the riders? - not really.  Like all rational consumers they want to see value for their money and the trail passes have simply not provided value. 

The Newfoundland Snowmobile Federation (The Association of Snowmobile Associations) are neither to blame for the lack of snow nor Igor but they can be faulted for blaming people for not paying for a product that they simply have not been able to use.  They are certainly not helping convince people still considering buying a pass by threatening to stop grooming early. This is absolutely counterproductive.  Would you buy a snowmobile from someone who said that it would likely break down? Not hardly!

It's time for government to annually register all ATVs (likely the biggest users of the trailway) and Snowmobiles and dedicate the money to the upkeep of the trailway - summer and winter.  Sadly Volunteer Associations are not working, the Trail Pass system is a failure, and most importantly the riders who are the key promoters of the sport have been made to feel either like criminals if they refuse to buy a pass to nowhere or fools if they paid for something that few others have contributed to.  Let's make this work for everyone and get the most out of the economic opportunity the Trailway offers.  
I invite your comments and I encourage you to get out to the AGM of the East Coast Snowmobile Association - January 18 - 7:30pm at Lakeside Resort.         
Paul Tilley