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OFSC Trails and GPS in Ontario

earthling

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Location
Ontario
Country
Canada
Snowmobile
2021 SRX
2006 ATTAK
Canada specific.. maybe..

Earlier this month it was announced by Trakmaps that they would no longer be supported by OFSC. Trakmaps for those of you that are not familiar are the GPS compatible trail map providers in Canada, similar to vvmaps or gps trailmaster. The reasons I have heard of and have derived from my discussions with them are as follows.

1. OFSC thinks they own the GPS data for the trail system. They have slightly changed this explanation over the last year but in reality, this is core to their philosophy. This attitude caused them to be late in supporting BRP gauges and Polaris Ride (either on the 7s display or mobile app). When I spoke to Polaris and BRP about this they both said that OFSC wants to sell mapping data to them and any company that does not buy a license would not get OFSC data. BRP has apparently signed this agreement but Polaris, as of this summer, has not. This means that the Polaris Ride maps are out of date.

2. OFSC is now requiring any map licensee to be able to 'live' update the maps for trail conditions. In reality, in OFSCs own maps, this only happens when you log into the app as you can take the app offline (download maps, use without cellular data) so its not really 'live' so much as it is 'recently updated' mapping information. Trakmaps (and others) do not update their maps very often and there is no provision for any kind of live data so they don't qualify for a license. Ironically, I spoke with Trakmaps about 6 years ago and made the case that they needed to switch from static maps to live maps and directly support cellular devices and their response was 'thanks but we will stick with GPS only maps'. Caveat Emptor

3. I heard through one of the local club presidents that an additional reason is insurance related. Because OFSC has taken the stance they have, they become responsible for keeping the maps up to date. This somehow creates an insurance liability for them. Cannot verify this but given the state of the insurance industry I have no reason to doubt it either.

What does this mean. If you have a Garmin device, I would be checking how you can update the trail maps. Its not that the maps on Garmin are nearly as bad as the Polaris maps but there is still the risk that they could be out of date. One of our local trails closed last year and that trail still exists on both Garmin and Polaris. The problem is that one of the land managers/owners is getting touchy about riders on the closed trail and is threatening to 'take action'. You can always use the OFSC map app which works okay and it is always up to date but it does not compete with any of the other apps in usability and its just not as easy to use as a dedicated GPS. This is going to create problems for riders in some areas of Ontario who own a GPS and don't trust cell phones.

If you plan to ride Ontario, your safest bet is to use the OFSC app, it just sucks that they have effectively limited GPS usability to their own app.
 

Polaris' OFSC maps are extremely outdated, like 10 years outdated. Never used Trakmaps as I find them overpriced. The OFSC app just sucks. Tried to use it on a data connected tablet and it just sucked. Can't see the map while riding and often froze or crashed.

Used the BRP app last year on the tablet. Works great and has live updated trail status at the same time as the OFSC site. Maps are also viewable while riding. Didn't use routing though and I would assume it would work. Another neat thing is that it has ALL trail systems so if you go from Ontario to Quebec, it's a seamless transition. A couple of gripes with it though. If the trail changed slightly, it doesn't follow the changed trail. The other was that it forced an update mid-season and it stopped working on my tablet. It was an Android 10, which it said it supported and it just said this version wasn't supported on my tablet. Tried contacting BRP support and they just said it was supported. I wound up buying a cheap Android 11 tablet from Amazon and it was working again. And another gripe, the stupid "terms and conditions" message would pop up in the middle of a ride exactly 24 hours after the last time you accepted them so at the next stop, you would then click on that button. So stupid.

I just hope that the OFSC doesn't become stupid again and also tries to strong arm BRP too. I am not paying for the OFSC app and plan to just use their free website as a backup, which sucks just as much as their app.
 
From what I understand, BRP is playing ball with OFSC. Polaris was still putting up a fight the last time I talked to them. The maps for Polaris Ride are dangerously old. I ran OFSC on an ipad mini in a heated holder I made last year and it ran fine, no issues. The OFSC app however has visibility problems, and I agree, BRP GO is much easier to see. The OFSC app is just not well designed from a usability perspective. In the picture below (full daylight) you can see the glare on the ipad holder, ignore that, its more that the buttons on screen are not designed for gloved hands and the actual map lacks some of the better dedicated GPS features. It works but it is difficult to rely on due to poor map contrast and the general poor design of the app.

Ipad mounted on sled_small.jpg
Ipad mounted on sled full brightness_small.jpg
 
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A little bit more on this. Spent some time talking to Garmin today, the gentleman I ran into was well aware of the situation in Ontario. Without getting into details, don't expect any map updates on any garmin platform or any software package that supports garmin. That leaves running the OFSC app as the only solution in Ontario that will have the updates.
 
The OFSC is very “backwards” in the way that they approach certain things. Seems as though the brain trust in Barrie is living in a vacuum most of the time, very out of touch with both local club/district and trail user issues alike. The attitude within the bureaucracy has become very self-serving over the years which is a real shame because that was never the intention when it all started.

Having said all that I’m old school and prefer to use a paper map when touring in areas I’m not familiar with. I worked with electronics/electrical systems in vehicles long enough to learn not to depend on them.
 
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The OFSC seems to have good intentions but bad execution.
 


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