PORT GREVILLE - Late into January and there is still not enough snow for snowmobilers to enjoy the local trails, but the president of the Chignecto Glooscap Snowmobile Club is not crying into his mitts just yet.
Rick Harvey said this week that he was still confident snowmobilers will have a season to enjoy in Cumberland County before spring rounds the bend.
"One can look back to just three years ago when we never took the snowmobiles out of the shed until Jan. 27, then we continued to have six to eight weeks of pretty good snowmobiling," said Harvey. "I'm disappointed, yes, but still optimistic. Not defeated."
Other than a couple of snowmobilers taking their machines out to check the trails, there has been no local snowmobile activity yet this year due to the simple lack of snow. Bouts of cold temperatures and small snowfalls have been consistently followed by mild temperatures and rain throughout December and January.
"It would be nice if we had some more snow on the ground," Harvey admitted. "One of our objectives this year is to try and grow our membership, and I think it's fair to say it's somewhat more difficult to grow the membership in these scarce snow conditions."
That does not mean the club has not been busy. During the off-season, projects included refurbishing of bridges, brush cutting, and getting grooming equipment ready for the 200-km of local trails.
Another off-season activity that continues through the winter is fundraising, and most of those projects move ahead with or without snow. On Feb. 11, for example, a five-course gourmet meal will be held at the home of club vice-president Gary Harrison. Meanwhile, a poker rally planned for Feb. 4 has a "rain date" of Feb. 18, if conditions dictate.
Popular off-season fundraisers include an annual auction in River Hebert in June, and a flounder supper in July.
Meanwhile, the club also benefits from the sale of trail passes, which Harvey said have been brisk and at least on par with last year, despite the lack of snow. He admitted that it can be difficult to keep club members motivated during a winter like this, but said he was still hopeful for the 2012 season.
"This is not Bathurst, and it's not the island of Cape Breton," he said. "Folks involved with snowmobiling for any amount of time around here realize that getting snowmobiling in November around here is not the norm. Most people expect by the end of January or early February they'll get some snowmobiling, and hope for four to six weeks of decent snowmobiling."
Andrew Wallis, who looks after grooming and trail development for the Cumberland Snowmobile Club, and also serves as vice-president of the Snowmobile Association of Nova Scotia, is not quite as optimistic about the 2012 season, especially after the great snowmobiling of the previous few years.
"These things go in cycles," said Wallis. "We've had three or four great winters, Last winter was probably one of the busiest, and we were grooming the most we've ever groomed. It's a little disappointing to get almost into February (this year) and not be snowmobiling."
Adding to the disappointment of the Cumberland club was the work put into trails during the off-season, particularly around the Springhill area.
Due to the lack of snow, the annual rally that would have been held last weekend has been rescheduled for Feb. 25.
Although still hoping a season can be salvaged this year, Wallis said he is more fearful of the impacts a poor season will have on next year, due to the loss in momentum.
"Most of our stuff is generated through trail permits, so we're going to see a downturn in the purchase of those next year, and that's going to hurt for sure," he said. "The other thing is we had all these people that were interested, businesses were on board, and we were looking at getting a new groomer for next year. You lose a lot of that stuff."