Highlands hit by winter blast
December has been more wintry than in recent years, bringing substantial snowfall and cold temperatures, giving skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers reason to cheer.
The last week delivered a wallop of the white stuff, putting many in the holiday spirit. At Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride, co-owner Chris Bishop said they’re having a fantastic season already. Conditions have been ideal, with 30 cm of snow and cold conditions to aid snow making. Opening weekend Dec. 10 was a great success, Bishop said, with the following weekend even busier. He anticipates that snow making will be complete by the 20th, which is the earliest it has ever been done.
Last year was hard for many in the winter recreation industry because of warm temperatures and the difficulty convincing customers in the city that there was snow in the Highlands. This year, there’s snow everywhere, which is putting many in the right frame of mind, Bishop said. The hill will be open every day except Christmas over the break, starting on Friday.
Snowy roads challenge drivers
The other side of having a winter wonderland is dealing with snowstorms and poor road conditions.
OPP Const. Tim Negus said during the week of Dec. 12 to 19, the local detachment dealt with 30 collisions with only two related to wildlife. Most of them happened on Wednesday and Thursday, he said, during a major snowstorm that had traffic crawling and events cancelled for public safety.
Of those collisions there were no major injuries, but Negus said there are still plenty of people who haven’t put snow tires on their cars and who aren’t properly cleaning off their vehicles before driving.
One of last week’s collisions involved an area school bus, which ended up in the ditch on Ingoldsby Road between Minden and Haliburton around 5 p.m. on Dec. 14, Trillium Lakelands District School Board communications manager Catherine Shedden said.
There was another bus on standby that was able to take the children home and there were no injuries, she said.
The County of Haliburton, which takes care of several of the major arteries throughout the municipality, has two shifts of workers clearing six routes from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. during weekdays (and five reconfigured routes on weekends). When storms hit like the one on Wednesday, those workers stay on, clearing snow through the night, said manager of operations Sylvin Cloutier.
“In an instance of freezing rain or heavy snowfall … we do make arrangements to have the staff go through the night,” he said.
Sometimes conditions make it unsafe even for plow drivers, which happened on Wednesday. Staff, at times, had to leave the roadway until visibility was good enough to return, Cloutier said.
“We had to keep the plows off the road at certain points because it’s unsafe for the drivers,” he said.
He added that the drivers did “a fantastic job” that evening and following morning clearing the roads.
Cloutier said his drivers still encounter unsafe behaviour from travellers, with some choosing to pass plows or following too closely. “If a vehicle tries to pass a plow truck they have to pass so wide and they can lose control,” he said.
Rob Camelon, interim public works director with Dysart et al, echoed that sentiment, noting that sometimes plows have to cross the centreline to avoid obstacles on the shoulder. That narrows the space cars have to pass, which could lead to a collision, he said.
At Dysart et al, plow drivers usually start clearing roads at 7 a.m., however, when bad weather hits the start time is usually more like 5:30, he said.
Their advice is to stay home during snowstorms whenever possible.
“If the OPP say it’s unsafe to be on the roads, don’t take chances,” Cloutier said.