Warm weather delays Kichi Sibi Winter Trail season

Two kids and their parent walk on the trail. A horse and wagon can be see in the background.
Kinds on the trail during the Champlain Park Winter Carnival on Jan. 20, 2024. Photo by Ellen Bond.

By Millie Farley

To the disappointment of many Kitchissippi residents, this season of the Kichi Sibi Winter Trail had a late start due to an El Niño which kept temperatures warm through December.

Trail groomer Dave Adams usually begins grooming in the middle of December. However, this season’s January start is the latest start he has experienced in his whole grooming career. 

The winters are getting warmer, but fortunately for the path, it does not need consistent cold weather, like ice skating does, to get started. To start grooming for skiing, the pathway only needs a minimum of 15 centimeters of snow.

“I like to think that urban winter pathways are quite resilient to climate change and I’m really quite proud of that,” said Adams. 

Now that climate change is affecting the Rideau Canal’s opening (it didn’t open at all last year for the first time in history), Adams believes more people are starting to look at alternatives for winter recreation.

“We’re seeing these warmer winters sometimes bring large dumps of snow. Also the warmer winters make it more inviting for people to come out and use the trail, which is really what we’re here for, getting people outside and active,” he said. “Warmer winters are not such a bad thing and if they just give us a little bit of snow, they actually are quite pleasant,”

Dave Adams poses for a photo with the trail and an ice rink behind him.
Dave Adams has been grooming the Kichi Sibi Winter Trail since it started as a pilot project. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Adams and the volunteers begin setting up the path in September, before the snow arrives. They prepare the land, set up snow fences, clear away branches, arrange signage and deal with administration. While one tends to assume snow grooming is the main part of the job, it is actually the shortest part of the process. 

In addition to Adams, there is a snow grooming team of five volunteers who help out, as well as a large group of people who do trail work. Being a registered charity, they even have a board of directors. When Adams started eight years ago, it was just him with a little bit of administration help from Dovercourt. The popularity of Kichi Sibi Winter Trail has greatly grown since then.

The Kichi Sibi Winter Trail is a path stretching along the Kichi Zibi Mikan parkway for 16 kilometers. During the summer, it is used for walking and biking. For the past eight years, it has been snow groomed, making it a popular destination for cross country skiers, snowshoers, and winter hikers. 

Unfortunately, a growing trail also means a more expensive trail. Adams’ salary, as well the trail’s four snowmobiles, insurance and administrative infrastructure, are their largest expenses. 

You can donate at wintertrail.ca/donate.

A horse drawn wagon goes down the trail.
A horse and wagon on the Kichi Sibi Winter trail on Jan. 20, 2024. Photo by Ellen Bond.

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