Council considers sled ed

Snowmobilers may have to pass a safety course to sled within Whitehorse’s city limits. That’s the most controversial proposal found in the city’s draft snowmobile bylaw.

Snowmobilers may have to pass a safety course to sled within Whitehorse’s city limits.

That’s the most controversial proposal found in the city’s draft snowmobile bylaw, released November 10.

Few snowmobilers knowingly break the rules, said bylaw chief David Pruden. Instead, they’re often unaware of where they’re allowed to roam, or of requirements that they possess a drivers’ license, helmet and vehicle insurance.

The course is meant to change that. It would be an open-book test.

“It’s not a test to fail people. It’s a test to educate people,” said Pruden.

Riders would have a year to complete the test. Out-of-town visitors could ride for two weeks without taking it.

The price of writing the test hasn’t been decided yet.

The draft bylaw would also prevent snowmobilers from riding anywhere they like in environmentally sensitive areas, as they may now. Instead, they’d have to stay on designated motorized trails.

Officials have abandoned an earlier plan that would have banned snowmobiles from city streets. That would have required sledders to haul their machines with a trailer from home to trail.

The Klondike Snowmobile Association complained this would be an unreasonable nuisance. Council agreed.

So the draft bylaw keeps the standing rule sledders must take a direct route from their homes to the nearest trailhead.

“They’re not supposed to cruise around the subdivision,” said Pruden.

Snowmobilers would continue to be expected to have their machines insured. But, at city council’s direction, officials won’t put any restrictions on the age of riders, or helmet use, in the new bylaw.

Instead, they’ll leave those issues to be dealt with by the territorial government, which is mulling how to best regulate offroad vehicles.

Council is also deferring to the territory’s MLAs to decide whether snowmobiles should be required to carry license plates.

Bylaw currently expects snowmobilers to have a valid drivers’ license and a helmet. They do so by enforcing a section of Yukon’s Motor Vehicles Act that’s only supposed to apply to offroad vehicle use on highways.

But, thanks to an absurdly broad definition of highway, that currently includes any trail.

The territory plans to narrow that definition in the future. Whether they pass a law that imposes age and helmet restrictions on offroad vehicle users remains to be seen.

Brad Cathers, the Yukon Party’s MLA for Lake Laberge, has opposed a proposed helmet law. Though he wears a snowmobile helmet himself, Cathers knows of trappers, rangers and hunters who are reluctant to don helmets while riding snowmobiles and ATVs because they find their glasses fog up, impeding their vision.

Doctors disagree. The Yukon Medical Association recently passed a resolution at their annual meeting that calls for the territory to introduce a helmet law for offroad vehicles.

The city will accept public comments on the draft bylaw until the end of the month. December will be spent reviewing comments and revamping the draft, with a final draft presented to council in the New Year.

“We still want to get feedback from the public,” said bylaw chief David Pruden. “We don’t consider the bylaw to be complete, by any means.”

The city began revising its snowmobile bylaw a year and a half ago. The current bylaw was first written in 1972 and is clearly dated – it refers to the machines as “motor-toboggans.”

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read