Kinjal Dagli Shah
While most Canadians may be looking south for a winter escape, a Stouffville couple makes the most of the snowy conditions, perhaps even waiting for it. Alek Smirnov and his wife Rose have been avid snowmobilers for close to four decades, and are showing no signs of slowing down. “We used to go for weekend trips with friends and then about 15 years ago, my wife and I started to plan a week-long trip every winter,” said the 63-year-old Alek, who is the owner and operator of AI Automotive Service in town.
The Smirnov’s have snowmobiled to the Muskoka-Haliburton region and the Golden Horseshoe area and as far as Pembroke on a 1,000 mile trip some years ago. “This is pretty much our winter getaway. There’s an organized trail system with maps, destinations and markings for hotels and gas so it’s easy to navigate,” said Alek, adding that the beautiful scenery is what attracts them the most. “The fields, forest trails and lakes are very picturesque, and it’s also a bit exhilarating at times. We ride anywhere from 6-8 hours a day depending on trail conditions. If we are lucky to have gorgeous weather, we may even ride for 10 hours.”
Alek jokes that his wife was faced with two options, either to develop a similar passion for snowmobiling or be prepared to spend her weekends alone at home. “She quickly realized I wasn’t giving it up,” said Alek, laughing. “She’s quite an avid snowmobiler. If she doesn’t get in her few hundred miles a year, she feels disappointed.”
Snowmobilers often use a 2-up model where one person rides but Alek points out it isn’t much fun for the other person. “My wife and I have our own snowmobiles. We replace them every few years and currently have a 2013 and a 2015 model. I get bored with the same model and like to try out new features while my wife is happy to ride the same one for several seasons,” said the Stouffville resident of 38 years.
So far this winter, the Smirnovs haven’t had much of a chance to get out on the trails due to conditions and other commitments. “We did two small local trips just after Christmas but are looking forward to February for our big getaway. We’ll go wherever the conditions are good. We may drive to Barrie and go out to Sauble Beach and the Bruce Peninsula from there. If that doesn’t work out, we may drive to North Bay and go to New Liskeard to take away from there,” said Alek.
As a grandfather to two little ones, Alek is looking forward to the years when he can plan a snowmobiling trip with his grandchildren. “There’s a few years before it happens since they are only 3 and 1 year old right now.” But ask him when he might retire and dive right into his snowmobile, and he quips, “When I win the next lottery.”