This year’s Snowarama ride has been cancelled, but North Island Snowmobile Association riders are still having a good year. Photo submitted

This year’s Snowarama ride has been cancelled, but North Island Snowmobile Association riders are still having a good year. Photo submitted

North Island Snowmobile Association sees more riders despite COVID-19

Riders should ensure they are prepared for backcountry conditions before venturing out

Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Campbell River snowmobilers are having a great year.

“We’ve been really busy,” said Norm Potoski, spokesperson for North Island Snowmobile Association (NISA).

Since there are restrictions on unnecessary travel throughout the province, a lot of riders are opting to check out the local mountains. NISA has seen the number of registered riders jump from around 100 in 2019/20 to 160 this season. NISA is one of two snowmobile clubs operate near Campbell River, the other being Mid-Island Sno Blazers, based in Nanaimo.

“Our membership is way up over last year. I mean I think that’s just because more people are staying home, people are staying on the island and doing local stuff.”

Typically, NISA would be holding their annual Snowarama fundraiser ride for the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilites around this time. However, due to COVID-19 they have had to do their fundraising without the fun part.

“We’re doing a virtual (fundraiser),” Potoski said. “We’re just not actually doing the ride. Our members are still trying to collect pledges and stuff, but we’re not going to be able to do the ride.”

NISA, as a snowmobile club, has access to certain areas to ride and provides access to members on weekends. NISA’s agreement is with Mosaic, which allows them to ride the Mt. Adrian area, which is near the edge of Strathcona Provincial Park. Snowmobiling is not allowed within the park boundaries.

“It’s a gated area, but with the land owner we have keys to access the area.,” Potoski said. “We’ve got five or six keys, and then everybody has to sign out when they take a key. When we’re actually in there, the club knows who’s going in and out… We do an email every weekend where we let everyone know when we’re going through the gate, what time and so forth. Guys that want to go out on the weekend know that they have to be at the gate at 8:30 or 9:00 or whatever.”

“Safety is the main thing. For us to have access to the area, we have to follow the rules that the landowner has,” he added. “We can’t go into (Strathcona) park. We can go where the landowners own land or we can go into government land, but not into the park.”

Conditions have been good lately, but as things warm up over the next few days, the potential for avalanches increases. The Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre is predicting high risk conditions in the Alpine this weekend, with considerable risk in the treeline and moderate risk below the treeline.

“Be sure to do a good and thorough analysis of your decision making process, factor in weather and snowpack and don’t forget the human factors,” reads the weekly report from the centre, which was posted on Feb. 17.

RELATED: Snowmobilers in Strathcona Park draw ire of hiking club

Searchers guide cold, wet snowmobilers safely out of wilderness near Mt. Washington

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