Neil Vanderstoop, president of the Haliburton County Snowmobile Association (HCSA), says snowmobiling is one of the primary drivers of the Highlands economy during the winter, helping to bring more than $7.5 million of business to the area.
Applying local statistics to a new report released by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobiling Clubs last week, which pegged the industry’s total economic impact provincewide at around $6 billion in 2022/23, Vanderstoop said HCSA posted “impressive” numbers when compared to other clubs within District 6.
The region covers approximately 2,850 kilometres, traversing west from Arnprior to Deux Rivieres in the east, and south from the Ottawa River up to Sharbot Lake, Bancroft and Haliburton County.
“District 6 directly supports 9,307 full-time jobs, generating $160 million for the region,” Vanderstoop said.
He added, “if we break it down and look at direct benefits from people riding on HCSA trails, we saw [last year] $4.5 million spent on food and beverage at stores and in restaurants, $133,000 on recreation and entertainment, and $2.9 million on accommodation. That puts us at around $7.5 million,” Vanderstoop said.
“Snowmobiling is absolutely essential for the Haliburton County economy during the winter,” he added.
After taking over as president of the club in May, replacing the long tenured John Enright, Vanderstoop has been hard at work getting ready for the new season.
He agreed to a two-year term, which he said will allow him to further snowmobiling in the Highlands.
His first priority was to implement succession planning at the club, ensuring those in prominent positions are training the next batch of leaders who can step in when the time comes.
This is particularly important for club directors, who take on designing and releasing the annual HCSA trails map, putting up signs around the County, and grooming trails.
Since early October, the club has been working on Trail B112, investing more than $20,000 on repairs. This will provide snowmobilers with easy access to Minden – something that wasn’t always possible last year.
The township of Minden Hills also installed the bridge that enables riders to cross the Gull River on Nov. 13.
“We’ve accomplished an unbelievable amount of work over the past 45 days, and it’s all leading towards a great season again in Haliburton County,” Vanderstoop said.
One feature riders can look forward to, he said, is new greeting stations at key points of trails.
“Volunteers will be out speaking to people, telling them about our club, giving them some tips and pointers of good spots to hit up. We’ll also be driving people towards our towns, so they can see… what Haliburton and Minden have to offer,” he said.
For more information, visit hcsa.ca.