BY SARA KEDDY
Kings County Advertiser/Register
Forget wrestling out a paper, multi-fold map on the nearest stump, snow bank or snowmobile hood.
Snowmobilers can now access their provincial trails system with GPS technology – accurate within five feet of where they’re sledding.
Annapolis Valley Lake and Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club president Jack Hamilton says the provincial association of clubs used a grant to GPS map the entire province, the Valley club’s own 600 kilometres included.
“It took days,” Hamilton says, of the efforts of three club volunteers – Mac Hirtle, Eugene Sheffield and Bob Balcolm – to cover that distance.
“They did the bulk of the trails, and they couldn’t go faster than 10 kilometres an hour – it was slow, basically backpacked the whole way.”
The results were released to clubs at the end of January: a new provincial map, with particular zones enlarged and indexed with the locations of the amenities snowmobilers need on the trail: gas stations, restaurants, intersections, mileages and significant trail features.
“It’s due diligence, and really all about safety,” Hamilton says, “but we’re now going out on the trails and getting new coordinates for lots of other places. The next map version will have even more.”
Until an updated map is printed, though, Valley sledders are filing their information on-line, on the club’s website.
“It’s really an effort to try and promote our area,” Hamilton says: “All snowmobiles carry is money” – for gas, food, coffee and accommodations.
Valley sledders with trail permits will get the map for free: everyone else can pick one up for $5 – and Hamilton says that includes non-snowmobilers.
“The map is also a great tool for our multi-use trail users, something we’ve always promoted.”
Hamilton says, just that morning, he met a woman walking her two dogs along one of the club’s groomed trails. The club knows skiers, dog sledders, horseback riders and many others use the system – some even making financial contributions in appreciation for the groomed routes and trail maintenance and signage.
While the GPS map is also a paper tool, Hamilton says the sky’s the limit now: while you can simply use the map and follow the trails, you could also leave it behind and rely on your GPS receiver, whether it’s sled-installed or on a cell phone. He expects it won’t be long before sledders can access applications that detail amenities – gas and food stops, distances and other necessities; not even leaving a paper trail.