SCI Snowmobile Club focuses on safety

High school offers many opportunities for students to get involved and participate in extra-curricular activities that pique their interest, such as track and field, yearbook, choir or student council. Now, students at Stayner Collegiate Institute (SCI) and Eastview Secondary School (ESS) can enjoy snowmobiling with their peers thanks to two Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) teachers.

Fraser Burton, a construction teacher at SCI and Jason Beer, a teacher from ESS, have started snowmobile clubs at their schools. With trails surrounding SCI, it’s not out of the ordinary for some students to ride a sled to school in the winter months.

“The goal of the club is to teach students that it’s a really fun sport if done safely and properly,” says Burton. “It’s a great winter outdoor activity, and our school happens to be in a beautiful area with trails available,” he adds.

The SCI club has nine students who have completed mandatory safety training, allowing them to go on group outings on the trails. The three-hour training involves topics such as speed, potential dangers, hand signals, safe trail riding and included a presentation from a member of the Huronia West OPP.

Along with having their own snowmobile, helmet and gear, the students need a Motorized Snow Vehicle Operator’s License (you can get one through the Ministry of Transportation and Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs [OFSC] at age 12). So far, the club has gone out on one outing.

“On our outing, the students were very respectful about driving at a safe speed, and they worked well together,” says Burton. “They demonstrated excellent ridership and took precaution to have a fun, safe ride.

Safety is a focus of the club. They want students to have a positive experience and ride safely with the club or without. With the continued reporting of snowmobile accidents and fatalities, it’s as important as ever to ensure students are well informed about best practices when riding. As such, Burton is teaching the importance of staying on OFSC trails, having a permit and insurance, and following proper guidelines.

To get the club started, Burton worked with SCDSB staff to get proper permissions. He also worked closely with Erin Schwartz, the SCDSB’s Corporate Risk Officer. One key element that helped get the club off the ground was the integration of volunteer hours and supporting local community snowmobile clubs.

“The students make orange snowmobile trail stakes for a local Barrie Snowmobile Club, and this past fall, they worked closely with the Collingwood Club – The Blue Mountain Snowdrifters –  to help prepare their trails for the season,” says Burton. “From placing open trail signs in, putting stakes in ground in the fall, and collecting them again in the spring – it’s all volunteer work,” he adds.

The students are enjoying their experience and are glad they have the Snowmobile Club as an option for an extracurricular activity.

SCI student, Ben Taylor states:

“This new club has allowed me to meet other students with similar interest as I have. This is a sport that I enjoy and it is nice to have it at my school as an extra-curricular activity.”

SCI student Aaron Verra says:

“I have learned a lot about the snowmobiling community since this club has started. We have discussed a lot about why trails are closing and how people need to be more respectful to the landowners in order to keep the trails open. We’ve learned that we need to stay off the trails until they are open and make sure we have all the proper permits in place.

SCI student Jonathan Taylor says:

“Being part of the SCI Snowmobile Club has made my experience here as a student fun and more adventurous. As a young guy who loves many sports, but is unable to play them due to a lifelong bleeding disorder, it’s hard to find activities I am able to do and enjoy. So being able to be part of the Snowmobile Club has let me interact with others and join a sport/activity that I enjoy so much and have adventures and an experience I will never forget.”

Next year, Burton plans to coordinate with the ESS Snowmobile Club and have a combined club outing.  For now, they are keeping mindful of the conditions and are hopeful for another fun and safe outing this season.

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