Snowmobiling boost winter tourism in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia – Get in the Zone
By Heather Laura Clarke
Summers on Cape Breton Island are packed with tourists looking to hike the Highlands, hit the beach, explore the historic sites and take in the beauty of the Cabot Trail on a sunny afternoon.
But Mike Eddy, general manager of the Snowmobilers Association of Nova Scotia (SANS), says the island also experiences a spike in tourism when everything’s covered in snow and ice.
“They have a 12-week tourist season in the summer, but there are some places in Cape Breton — like cottages up in Margaree — where it’s actually harder to get in there in January, February or March than it is in July,” says Eddy.
“They’re busier during the winter because they have another 12-week tourism season that does really well: snowmobiling season.”
Last year, the Destination Cape Breton Association partnered with SANS to promote winter tourism, since the island typically gets snow before anywhere else in the province and it can last until nearly summer.
“Up in the Cape Breton Highlands last year, people were going for a ride on June 4,” says Eddy. “If you live in HRM [Halifax Regional Municipality], some years you’re sweeping your walkways with a broom and that’s the worst of it all winter.”
SANS and its member clubs represent more than 20 clubs and nearly 2,400 snowmobiling families across Nova Scotia. Eddy says the province is divided into four snowmobiling zones, each with its own unique riding experience.
“Zone 1 is Cape Breton Island: Inverness, Richmond and Victoria counties. You have the highest elevation with wide-open roads that aren’t maintained in the winter, lots of deep drifts and places to play off-trail,” says Eddy. “It offers an experience many snowmobilers like. I love it, myself.”
Zone 2 runs from the Canso Causeway up to just past Dalhousie Mountain/Mount Thom area. Eddy says there are “some really nice groomed trails” in Zone 2, as well as plenty of restaurants and lodging options.
“You want a place where you can go for meals and access lodging so you can stay and do a weekend tour,” says Eddy.
Zone 3 is the largest snowmobiling area in Nova Scotia and includes Halifax Regional Municipality, the Annapolis Valley and the South Shore.
“There’s some beautiful scenery there and big, wide-open logging roads,” says Eddy. “There’s a bigger snowmobiling population here, so there are more choices of restaurants and places to put your feet up compared to the other three zones.”
Kellock’s Restaurant and Union Street Cafe in Berwick are regularly frequented by snowmobilers. They also offer a discount on food purchases for snowmobilers who arrive in town on their sled with a valid SANS permit.
Zone 4 comprises Colchester and Cumberland counties and includes drive-in places for snowmobilers to stay the night, such as motels, hotels, chalets and lodges. Eddy says convenient accommodations are important because part of the fun of snowmobiling is turning each ride into a proper trip.
“Don’t just spend a morning or an afternoon going for a drive. Take your family and go for the weekend,” says Eddy. “Spend the night somewhere before you head back to your truck and trailer.”
Zones 2 and 3 both connect to Zone 4, so riders can move smoothly through all of Nova Scotia and then straight into the New Brunswick trail system and beyond.
“You can drive through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and into Quebec and Ontario,” says Eddy. “We have an interconnected trail system that goes across Canada.”
Zone 1 is the only area that isn’t connected to the others and while some riders travel across the ice of the causeway, Eddy says it’s not recommended.
“We don’t promote ice riding in Nova Scotia because we don’t need to,” says Eddy. “In Ontario and Manitoba, they have marked trails running across some lakes, but we say ‘no lake running’ as a rule and keep our trails going around the lakes.”
No matter which zone you choose, anyone travelling on designated trails that are maintained by SANS is required to have a valid permit sticker on the left side of their snowmobile’s hood. Permits range from $85 to $185, or you can purchase a three-day permit for $50 if you’re only planning a one-time trip.
Although it’s not required that newbie snowmobilers join a club, Eddy says membership is a great way to get more involved in the sport and make new friends.
“You get the benefit of connecting with people who are passionate about snowmobiling and you get so much more out of it: the camaraderie, the club rides, the social activities,” says Eddy. “If a group of people want to go on a road trip somewhere, we’ll say, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’”
He’s got his fingers crossed for an extra snowy winter, but says snowmobilers are an easygoing group that will take any snow they can get.
“We’re a dedicated bunch and we’ll milk it all we can,” says Eddy. “Once the snow starts, we always get out there and we enjoy it until the very end of the season.”
Interested in learning more about snowmobiling in Nova Scotia? Want to buy a permit, find a trail or join a snowmobiling club? Visit snowmobilersns.com.