Snowmobile trails signage – the importance of volunteers

by : Clément Boutin
Read all articles from Clément Boutin
Publish on : 2016-12-12

When you are snowmobiling on your local club trails, maybe you do not notice it, but when you travel in another region, you pay special attention to it. You are right, I am talking about the trail signs.

This signage is all put in place by volunteers. Since almost 20 years, I am a volunteer for my local club. Each fall and each spring, I help to the installation and to the removal of signs. All these volunteers install mandatory signs and all those that indicate a curve, a bridge, a danger, a residential area. To this, they add the little towers that show directions and distances to towns, villages, dealers, inns, hotels, gas stations, relays and partners of snowmobile clubs. Signage is useful and safe for snowmobilers to find their way and to reach services. Signage is also very important for grooming machine operators, specially during snow storms on open terrain, in order to remain on trail. Ideally, volunteers of each club in the different regions install the signs mostly before ground gets frozen. This way, signs stay put under strong winds and warm spell during winter. Many clubs use permanent signs (iron poles) in forests, where land owners allow them to. Hours of volunteering are then reduced. As you may guess, club volunteers are rare.

Equipped with ATV, trailers, jimmy bars, mallets or mallet smart systems, volunteers arm themselves with patience to prepare the new season. They usually install red poles in fields every 100 m, to form a route of 6,5 m width, which is twice the width of a grooming machine needed to make a safe trail.

Of course, there are some standards to respect in order to make signage conform, as requested in the guide produced by the ministère des Transports, de la Mobilité durable et de l’Électrification des transports for snowmobile clubs. An important standard to respect is the distance between the Stop sign and the Pre-Stop sign. The Stop sign and the Pre-Stop sign must be 100 m apart, or 300 feet for the most ‘experienced ’ of us. These 2 signs must be installed individually on their pole and on the right side of the trail.

Using a laser telemeter allows to check the precise distances, but the good old way of 100 steps of 3 feet or 1 meter (depending on your height) is still quite precise. In fact, this is one of the first elements checked by police officers when they look for the causes of a major accident at a road crossing. This method protects snowmobilers and volunteers who install the signs and they are well aware of it.

I use this opportunity to thank all volunteers for their precious and important time offered year after year to their respective club for the installation and removal of signage. They help setting and maintaining a provincial trail circuit of over 30 000 km in the Province of Québec. Thanks to them, we can ride in complete safety.

Finally, did you know that the number of kilometers of the trail circuit groomed by snowmobile clubs in the Province of Québec is larger than the number of public roads maintained by the MTMDETQ? Isn’t it impressive?

Have a great season.

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