Salmon Arm Snowblazers volunteers work to clear the sledding trails after trees have fallen and blocked the trails due to heavy snow buildup. (Contributed)

Avalanche concerns low for Shuswap snowmobile clubs, warm weather brings other challenges

Salmon Arm Snowblazers looking for help with fallen trees

Falling trees and ice are the main challenge facing Shuswap sled clubs so far this season following periods of warm weather and rain.

Along with the heavy snowfall the area received in December, the temperatures plunged to new lows during the week of Dec. 21, 2022, and snowmobile and sled season began in full force.

Following the wintry weather, however, has been a period of much warmer temperatures and rain, which has changed the conditions up the sledding mountains.

SLED Sicamous trail operators are dealing with the lower parts of the trails becoming dangerously icy, which can make parking in the lower levels difficult. So far, parking has been manageable, but general manager Natalie Sorkilmo said they might have to push parking lots up to the staging areas located two kilometres up the mountains, and it will be hard to manage the grooming of the lower areas if temperatures remain as high as they are forecasted for much longer.

“Ideally, we like about -5 C, then we’re happy,” said Sorkilmo. “It’s tough to always be at the mercy of Mother Nature.”

Sorkilmo also said there have been slides higher in the mountains, and mentioned that hearing a slide happen can be a good thing because then the club knows which areas have ‘let loose’ and what they can monitor less closely. Sorkilmo also reiterated the importance of avalanche safety training for riders anywhere in B.C.

While avalanche warnings have been issued in the Shuswap and across the province, the Salmon Arm Snowblazers’ trails have a plateau on top and are relatively flat, so they don’t often have avalanche threats that would impact riders’ safety. Falling trees are the main risk there, as old and even young, healthy trees are crashing down due to the immense weight of heavy snow that has piled on top of them. Snowblazers vice president Charles Voyer said it has been time-consuming to keep the trails clear of the “tremendous amount” of fallen trees.

“The trails are very challenging to keep groomed because of this warm weather,” said Voyer. “All snowmobile clubs in the area are working harder when it gets this soft.”

Voyer said the Snowblazers will be working all day on Thursday, Jan. 12 to prepare for the weekend, but if temperatures don’t drop, the snow will stay soft and slushy and it will be a challenge moving forward.

Anyone who wants to volunteer to help the Snowblazers clear trees from the trails is invited to contact the club on Facebook, call 250-833-4833, or email salmonarmsnowblazers@gmail.com.

The Snowblazers just held its annual moonlight poker run which Voyer said was very successful, and the club is deciding when the sunshine poker run will be held this year at its monthly meeting tomorrow (Jan. 12). The sunshine run usually happens around spring break in March, and details will be announced on the club’s Facebook page.

A poker run is when participants buy a hand of cards to begin and then ride the mountain, visiting the various poker stations set up in a certain order. As they reach the station, they can buy a new hand of cards or keep their original, and once they get back to the cabin, whoever has the best hand wins a portion of the money. The rest of the funds raised go towards operating the club as it is a non-profit organization.

SLED Sicamous is looking forward to its upcoming ladies’ ride on Feb. 11 and fundraising dinner and auction on Feb. 18.

READ MORE: B.C.’s avalanche conditions highly risky, haven’t been seen in 2 decades

READ MORE: ‘Not just landscaping’: Better protection, planning for Salmon Arm trees needed


@willson_becca
rebecca.willson@saobserver.net

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