What should we think about the pilot project concerning the use of non-skid devices on snowmobile tracks ?

For the last few days, the snowmobilers community is shaken by a crisis about the use of tracks with studs in the Province of Québec. Effectively, on social networks and various forums, many people talk about the famous Pilot project concerning the use of non-skid devices on the tires or tracks of off-highway vehicles.

Since January 2nd, this pilot project does not authorize the operation, on public highways, of snowmobiles that have track with studs (nails, pins). See Section 2 of Order 2015-18 of the Minister of Transport :
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According to the official interpretation given to police officers to guide them in the application of the rules of this project, pre-studded tracks (Ice Ripper or Ice Attak, for example) will be tolerated.

Even if the real motivations behind the decision of the Ministère des Transports to exclude from the pilot project the nail or screw types of studs remain unclear, it seems that damages caused to pavement on road crossings are one of the reasons. If this is true, then we must believe that decision makers are not familiar with the reality of our sport because crossing a public highway in a responsible way, with studs that are correctly installed, does not cause any damage to the pavement. This said, this decision has much more significant consequences in regards of safety and economic impact.

Safety

As for the use of any other vehicle, snowmobiling must be practiced in a safe environment in order to avoid accidents. The traction of the track then becomes a major element and this, on all types of surfaces. The use of studs increases importantly the traction of the track on icy surfaces, which provides a better control and more efficient braking. In fact, snowmobilers who have studs installed on their snowmobile track, almost unanimously say that their next snowmobiles will be equipped with studs.

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Considering the weather conditions we know this year, with warm and cold temperatures  alternating, there are much more icy surfaces on trails. To get optimal safety, use of studs of any type would then be an important feature to choose. Then, the entry into force of this pilot project in its actual version is at the opposite of common sense ! If we coldly analyze the situation : a device meant to increase snowmobilers safety is deliberately prohibited in order to avoid minimal damages to a few square feet of pavement at road crossing. Do you see any logic here ???

Yet, the Fédération des Clubs de Motoneigistes du Québec (FCMQ) has underlined that « track studs are proven safety device whose merit has been proven not only in numerous specialized studies, but also by thousands of snowmobilers over many years. » The recommendations made by our Fédération have not been retained by the decision makers even if the Fédération has a very important expertise in all aspects of snowmobiling in the Province of Québec as well as in other provinces and States. In fact, why such an isolation from Québec in this issue since studs are widely used by our neighbours ?

Economic impact

As we are writting this article (January 14, 2016), the economic impact following the entry into force of this pilot project has already been noticed by many tourism stakeholders. Effectively, SledMagazine.com has run a study among some representatives of the tourism industry and some of them have confirmed many cancelations from American and Ontarian snowmobilers. More than 250 overnight stays have already been canceled in Gaspésie, according to our contacts, and it is increasing day after day. « We receive many phone calls every day from American tourists who are not sure about their trip because their snowmobile is equipped with studs », said a hotel manager who does not want to be identified. « Considering that one day of a snowmobile trip can cost from 200 $ to 300 $, it is a loss of tourist economic impact that can easily reach 50 000 $ to 75 000 $… And this is only the tiny tip of the iceberg », added Denis Lavoie, from SledMagazine.com .

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If this situation lasts in regions like Chaudière-Appalaches, Bas-Saint-Laurent or Gaspésie, it could just be disastrous.

On the different forums and social medias, snowmobilers from the United States and from the other Canadian provinces clearly announce that they are going to visit other places than the Province of Québec. With the hundreds of thousands of dollars invested abroad each year by the various stakeholders of the snowmobile world (tourism associations and offices, hotel groups, etc.) to develop the snowmobile tourism in the Province of Québec, the orientation taken by the Ministère des Transports in this matter, despite the representations made by the FCMQ, is totally going in the opposite direction !

Also, if the situation persists, we can ask ourselves :  Next year and the following years, how will the stakeholders, through exhibitions and various advertising campaigns, attract again the tourists from U.S.A. and the other Canadian provinces to come and visit the Québec trails ? Will the Québec Government be present to assist these stakeholders and repair the damage ?

The implementation of this pilot project in its actual version by the Ministère des Transports has just taken down all the efforts of the last years made by the tourism representatives in the Québec snowmobile industry. Furthermore, it endangers hundreds, even thousands of jobs in regions where snowmobile is the main economic resources in winter. Finally, without knowing it, the Government officers who took that decision (without considering the recommendations made by the FCMQ, must we say it again) will take away each year from the Government, their own employer, many million dollars of revenues made of various taxes, income taxes and other impacts…

Stop the bleeding

The Government must act very quickly in order to reverse the situation… To give immediately to police officers the instruction of giving only warnings instead of tickets for what is left of the season, would be a good start. It would allow minimal negative impacts to the tourism industry.

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Afterwards, to pass an amendment to the pilot project that will consider the recommendations made by the Fédération des Clubs de Motoneigistes du Québec and the reality of the snowmobile world.

And us, snowmobilers, what can we do ?

We invite all snowmobilers in the Province of Québec and from abroad to write an email directly to the Ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ) at the following address :  [email protected]

Do not hesitate to refer to this article and to the FCMQ press release (read…) .