The Snow Goer Canada crew plans our first “break in” ride of the season for new sleds, accessories and equipment during the first week in January. We look for the closest place that’s likely to have decent snowmobiling based on its reputation for reliable early snow and early opening trails.
  We also want a destination with plenty of trail variety and lots of loop choices, so we can ride short test runs or longer day rides. Finally, we need a staging hotel that’s central to as many trail choices as possible, and that also has a heated garage so we can tweak, fine tune and adjust each night without freezing our buns off. 
 
  Last January, we found all of this and more in Quebec’s Abitibi-Témiscamingue Region and at Amosphere Complexe Hotelier in the Town of Amos (see Where We Stayed). So  you’re probably thinking…that’s nice, but how does it help my riding plans, especially so late in the season? 

  Simple. Abitibi-Témiscamingue boasts one of the longest riding season’s in Quebec and that means their trails are usually open well into April. So if you’re looking for a great destination for your last ride of this winter, Abitibi- Témiscamingue is the place to go. 

  The proof is in the pudding…this past January, while very few trails in either Quebec or Ontario were rideable yet due to a Christmas rain, Abitibi- Témiscamingue trails were up and running. But don’t take my word for the merits of Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Four of our January crew from Snow Goer Canada had never been there before, so I’ll let them tell the story (with a few facts and figures provided by yours truly) 

Brent Murphy on Getting There: At first glance, it seemed that Abitibi-Témiscamingue was a long way from my home near Barrie, Ontario. But our drive to Amos actually turned out to be easy – an 8- hour trailer straight up Highway 11 and then hang a right on Highway 65 into Quebec at New Liskeard. It would have been even shorter if we’d started our snowmobiling from either of the towns of New Liskeard, Ontario (4-5 hours) or Temiscaming, Quebec (3-4 hours). But being located farther south, I understand that trail access into Abitibi-Témiscamingue from these towns wasn’t good at the time of our ride, so I advise you to check their condition before planning to stage from there for early or late season riding. Alternatively, we could have staged from Rouyn-Noranda, which is only about another hour’s trailer north of New Liskeard and approximately opposite Kirkland Lake, Ontario, but we picked Amos for reasons explained in this article. By the way, if you want to pick up some beer for after sledding refreshment, drop into the reserve liquor store (red building on the north side of Highway 65 just before the village of Notre-Dame-du-Nord)…where you can buy 60 cans of Bud Light for $74! 

Paul Molto on the Trail System: Looking at the Abitibi-Témiscamingue trail map, my first impression was that there were a lot of trails and towns – more than I had expected for a northern region. Even so, I was surprised to hear that Abitibi-Témiscamingue offers more than 3,700 kilometres of groomed trails, a combination of Trans Quebec and club trails. As a first timer to the area, this was exciting because there would be no shortage of new trails to find and explore! I also discovered that their trail system is laid out in a sort of rectangle formed by Trans Quebec Trails 83 and 93 and extending east from the Ontario boundary. The main towns are Rouyn-Noranda (pop. 42,000) in the southwest corner of the rectangle, Val-d’Or (pop. 32,000) in the southeast, La Sarre (pop. 7,700) in the northwest corner and our staging destination, Amos (pop. 17,000) to the northeast. Along with Abitibi-Témiscamingue’s many other secondary communities, this is good news for snowmobilers because there are more than enough trail-accessible services and amenities, including dealers representing all four snowmobile manufacturers; finding fuel, food and lodgings is a nonissue. 


 
Phil Molto on Riding the Trails: As the host of Snowmobiler Television, I always view each new destination to see how it will look on camera. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Abitibi-Témiscamingue has a huge variety of trails so it looked good through my lens and shows very well on the STV feature we produced about our ride. As an avid rider for many years, I loved that many of the trails we rode are laid out on old logging and forest access roads 16’ to 24’ across, with long straightaways, good sightlines and wide, sweeping corners. These, plus generally colder temperatures and fewer “hard brake /hard throttle” situations help keep the trail base intact throughout the day and longer into the season, with fewer moguls overall. 
  What’s more, instead of the flat terrain I had anticipated, their trails had lots of ups and downs and even some whoop-dee-doo’s on ones like #307. There aren’t many ice crossings either, and most intersections are decently enough marked that visitors can find their way around. If the smooth trails we hit this early in the season are any indication, it’s clear Abitibi-Témiscamingue snowmobile clubs take their grooming very seriously. Although we didn’t ride many of them on this trip, I understand their club trails are every bit as good as the main Trans Quebec corridors, so that’s a lot of table top riding to be had! 

 
Craig Irwin on Riding Options:
When I’m riding with the guys, I’m looking to put on big miles. But with family or couples, distance isn’t usually a top priority. That’s just one of many things I liked about snowmobiling in Abitibi-Témiscamingue… there are may different riding options and even for this Snow Goer Canada break in ride, these options paid off… 
 Our original plan was to try to ride over 250 kilometres a day, but that proved to be overly ambitious once we factored in extra time for tweaks and fine-tuning, breaking in some long unused sledding muscles, and encountering downright frigid temperatures…“Glacial” was the term being bandied about on The Weather Network that week!
  So we started longer loops and shortened them if needed each day, which got me to thinking that I should bring my family back up here in March for a plentiful choice of flexible riding options, depending on who wants to ride how far each day. On the other hand, when I come back to Abitibi-Témiscamingue for another guy’s ride, there are a couple of 400+ kilometres loops I want to try, including the 83/93 combo around the periphery of the rectangle. There’s even a 500+ kilometre run on the Trail 396 loop north to Mattagami, which I’m told can be done on a long March day, but I want to see for myself! 

  So there you have it folks. As their slogan says, Abitibi- Témiscamingue does indeed provide “Snowmobiling at Its Purest”. So if you’re longing for one last great ride this winter, this is where you need to go!

 

 Special thanks to Guillaume Travert & Anne-Marie Belzile (Tourisme Abitibi-Témiscamingue) and Jean-Pierre Frigon (Amosphere) for assistance with this tour. Craig’s tours are made possible by BRP (Ski-Doo), Gateway Powersport, FXR Racing, Split Rail Skis, Triton Trailers, and Woody’s Traction Products. Craig Nicholson is the author of “Canada’s Best Snowmobiling — Your Ultimate Ride Guide”. His snowmobile writing also appears in many newspapers, magazines and websites. He also hosts “The Intrepid Snowmobiler on Radio” and appears on Snowmobile Television. For more info, visit www.intrepidsnowmobiler.com

 Where was your last ride of the season, and what are your touring destinations that we must hit next year? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

 


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