A fresh perspective

Mary MacKay
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Sledders on the 2014 Celebration Ride experience a whole different view of P.E.I.’s scenic opportunities

If rainbows are colourful-arched bonuses after a summer rainstorm, then winter’s equivalent would be nature’s bows bent in snow-laden tribute after a heavy snowfall.

Pristine woodland vignettes such as these and more awaited the 100-plus sledders on the second day of the 2014 Celebration Ride across Prince Edward Island, which is being hosted by the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association (PEISA).

“It’s a different perspective for sure, when we come to the Island in the summertime we’re just on the highway and we go to Cavendish or to Charlottetown and do that,” says Carole Blenkhorn of Amherst, N.S.

“When you’re on the road, you’re looking at the front of the houses. When you’re on the trail you’re looking at the backside so you see everybody’s backyards and things like that. So it’s a different perspective that way because you’re looking at (communities) from a whole different angle.”

The angle on everyone’s mind first thing after breakfast was finding and clearing off their snowmobiles after yet another generous snowfall.

“I know there’s a starter button on here someone,” laughed one optimistic fellow as he cleared a thick layer of the fluffy white stuff from his Polaris ride.

The ride on this day is to the O’Leary Legion for a sumptuous chicken dinner with all the fixin’s and then a swirl around the West Point Loop. Then it’s a jaunt back to the Loyalist Inn in Summerside where a Red Shores Casino night awaits.

The PEISA’s trail system is about 925 kilometres long and consists of fields, wood groves, logging roads, unplowed back roads and the Confederation Trail, as well as other spur rail lines that are not yet considered part of that formal system.

“Some trails have been existing for many years so already have (agreements in place) but in the last number of years there have actually been some new trails developed that are on private land,” says PEISA president Dale Hickox.

In Canada, there are more than 112,000 kilometres of trails in total that are maintained by a system of volunteers that is 735 clubs strong.

“They make the trails magically appear and disappear every year,” says Dennis Burns, executive director of the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations, which is holding its national board meeting on P.E.I. on Saturday once the 2014 Celebration Ride is complete.

“I use that line because it’s so true. You go on a trail (before the snow) and there’s nothing there. Is it on a farmer’s field, how did it get there? If it’s on a farmer’s field, they had to get permission. They had to make sure there was proper insurance. They had to get the documentation. (Then) somebody went out and actually fundraised to purchase the groomer. . .. And that’s not the bridges, that’s not the culverts, that’s not the brushing and clearing. . . .”

Back on the P.E.I. Confederation Trail for the second day of the 2014 Celebration Ride, one of the best moments for Blenkhorn was when many of the different riding groups, from which the original 100 sleds were split, actually came together on the same straightaway stretch at one point on the way to O’Leary.

“When you were stopped, as far as you could see ahead of you was snowmobiles and as far as you could see behind you was snowmobiles. . . . We probably had 75 machines all going at the same time. It was really nice.”    

 

Organizations: PEISA, P.E.I. Snowmobile Association, Loyalist Inn Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations

Geographic location: P.E.I., Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown Amherst Summerside Canada Leary

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