DON’T BE “THAT GUY”

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How many times have you heard the old saying “It just takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch?”  Probably more than you can even count.  There’s a reason that old sayings like this survive- because they are true.  Unfortunately there are those among us who, for some unknown reason, can’t understand the point behind the saying and become that one bad apple that ruins everything for everybody.  Once and a while I see things out on the trail that put me in a mood to go on a blog tirade, but I usually restrain myself. This year I have decided to get my usual in season frustrations with certain riders out of the way before the season starts so I can be done with it.  I’m not talking about each individual rider here, let’s face it even the safest and smartest among us have made mistakes out on the trail and had a few close calls, but because we are responsible riders they were just that, close calls.  What I am talking about here are those few bad eggs that are chronic abusers of the trail, lack any sort of trail etiquette and are just overall idiots that ruin the sport for everyone and get trails closed.  We’ve seen them, we’ve heard about them, and some of you might even know one of them, so without further ado  here are my biggest on trail pet peeves.

THE GUY THAT RIDES ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRAIL:  Believe it or not there are people out there that do not understand the ride right rule of the trail.  How these idiots ever wound up on a snowmobile is beyond me but every year you read about them: some moron riding on the wrong side of the trail who hits and severely injures or kills someone.  I can’t believe how often this happens because it is 100% avoidable.  How do you go from staying on your side of the road every day when you drive a car to being so stupid that you can’t figure out that the same rule applies on the trail?  People that cannot follow this simple rule and stay on the right side of the trail have no business ever being on a snowmobile.

THE GUY WHO CAN’T FOLLOW SIMPLE TRAIL SIGNS:  This is the one thing that winds up getting trails closed all over the United States every year.  The vast majority of snowmobile trails run through private property and in order to keep these trails open there are agreements made with land owners that are designed to keep snowmobile activity to designated areas, this results in a number of “Stay On Trail,” “Do Not Enter,” “No Snowmobiles Allowed,” and “No Trespassing” signs being posted along with residential area speed limit signs.  I was out doing trail work one day in the middle of the season and watched someone completely ignore the clearly marked trail diamonds, multiple “Stay On Trail” signs, a “Do Not Enter” sign, a “No Trespassing” sign, and a “No Snowmobiles Allowed” sign and ride right onto private property and ride through the land owners yard just so he could cut off about 300 yards of rough trail.  Needless to say the landowner came out of his house and threw a fit and I had to apologize for the moron who apparently cannot read plain English, needless to say if I had to renew that landowner’s trail easement that day he would have said no.  It didn’t matter to him that thousands of riders obeyed the signs all year, all he cared about was the one jerk who rode through his yard.

THE GUY WHO THINKS THE TRAIL IS A SNOCROSS TRACK:  We’ve all seen these riders, the ones who push the envelope of speed on the trail.  Never mind that there are speed limits, these guys don’t care and speed like crazy.  I’m not talking about opening up the throttle on a lake or long straight away, I’m talking about those that are ripping through the curves and riding way too fast for the trail.  I’ve been riding at a pretty good pace when suddenly some guys blow by me like I’m standing still, then a half mile down the trail I see one of these same guys with his sled wrapped around a tree and a bone sticking through a hole in his bibs.  Suddenly a casual ride becomes a guided tour for the sheriff’s rescue squad to show them where the idiot with a destroyed sled and broken bones is. NOT FUN. 

THE GUY WHO HAS HAD ONE TOO MANY DRINKS AND DECIDES TO RIDE:  This is another no brainer.  “Hmm, I’m going to drink, become intoxicated and then get on a high horsepower vehicle and travel down an icy trail that is bordered by trees on both sides”- smart move.  I  have never understood this logic, and no matter how long the list of dead snowmobilers from driving while intoxicated gets it is never enough to keep people from doing it, and it’s only a matter of time before it catches up to them and adds a new name to the list.

THE OVERALL JERK:  There are some things that people do on the trail that just ruin it for everyone by the stupid way they act or ride.  One of my biggest pet peeves are people that cross a road and feel it necessary to hammer the throttle when they get on the other side and pile up a huge mound of snow- well guess what, that is the first step of starting a long chain of moguls (For more on this see my upcoming article on the science behind moguls).  Then there are those that feel it is okay to eat a candy bar or have a bottled water and just throw their trash on the side of the trail, seriously WHY?  You brought it out there, bring it back.  This is the #2 reason trails get closed- because the snow melts and land owners find trash on their property- once again it is because of a handful of people that trails get closed.

Well, that’s it, rant over.  Hopefully if you are one of these people or know one of them you can convince them that their actions ruin riding for everybody and maybe help save our trails and save lives.  Nearly all snowmobile accidents can be prevented and we all want to be out there and have fun and come home safely.  If we all followed the rules of the trail we can all make it home and we can keep the trails open for years to come.

SNOWMOBILE CLUBS NEED YOU NOW

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As Labor Day passes and summer draws to a close, local snowmobile club meetings start ramping up.  “I want you!” was the recruiting slogan for the US Army during World War I, and it is still a fitting slogan for today’s snowmobile clubs.

Have you ever wondered how that trail you ride on every winter manages to get groomed?  Have you ever thought about how there are no trees or brush overhanging that trail to get in your way? Have you ever pondered how that bridge that crosses that creek in the middle of nowhere wound up way out in the woods like that?  Have you ever stopped to think about how that snowmobile trail you are riding on is even there to begin with?  Unfortunately these are a lot of the things that many snowmobile riders take for granted. 

Snowmobile clubs are the backbone of the snowmobile trail system that so many of us enjoy.  Every trail you ride on was made possible by an ordinary group of volunteers that spend untold hours securing easements from private land owners in order to build a trail.  These same people then give up their weekends clearing brush, cutting fallen trees, dragging bridge materials out into the woods, constructing shelters and filing in washouts along the trail to get it ready for winter, then comes the signing and fencing for the trail and then endless hours in sub- zero temperatures at 2 AM grooming the trails to perfection, all so that you can have a great weekend ride. The reality is that without these people you would have no place to ride that nice new sled of yours.  It is a misconception by many a snowmobiler that the state or province they live in are the ones managing the upkeep of the trail system- they are not. Yes, the various state DNR’s have a hand in how things are managed but the overwhelming majority of the work falls to club members.  If you ride a snowmobile, then you need to be part of a club, it’s that simple.  Clubs need people like you to help them function, even if you can only contribute one hour a year to help with trail maintenance, grooming or repairs, that one hour is one hour of work that at the moment isn’t being done.

Club members realize that everyone has lives and commitments and that some people can help more than others but no contribution of time or effort is too small and there isn’t a snowmobile club out there that wouldn’t welcome you and whatever you can bring to the table.  The harsh reality is that snowmobile clubs need members and if there aren’t enough people to help, then work doesn’t get done, when work doesn’t get done trails close, and when trails close the sport as we know it dies.

 

6/21 POST A FEW DAYS LATE

a1a1Well here we are again, just passing the longest day of the year- now the days start getting shorter and winter starts getting closer.  As always we will be improving the site in the off season and ironing out a few things along with improving the trail condition section.  Tune back in in September when we start giving you the latest news on trails and post a bunch of articles to get you pumped up for what we hope will be a snowy season.  Until then have a safe summer so we can see you on the trails this winter!

TIPS FOR SUMMER SNOWMOBILE STORAGE

IMG_0629 (3)Winter is over- at least we think it is.  It looks like May is actually going to provide us with some days over fifty degrees and no major snowstorms and, if we’re lucky, there might be some lakes in southern Minnesota with enough breaks in the ice to actually go fishing for the opener.  Now I am waiting for a nice day to summerize the sled and put it away for the off season.

            Summer storage is an essential part of keeping your snowmobile ready to go and in good running order and how you do it makes all of the difference in the world.  Follow these simple steps and you will be very happy next fall.

1.       WASH AND WAX YOUR SNOWMOBILE:  This is a crucial thing to do in my opinion.  Undoubtedly your snowmobile has picked up some salt and grime from road crossings or ditch banging or trailering and you need to get rid of it before it starts eating away at the metal and rubber.  Just like a car, your snowmobile can use a good waxing also.  Waxing your sled protects the hood and the metal and helps repel dirt, dust, water and to top it all off it makes your sled look sweet on the trails.  As you are washing your sled it is a great time to check for loose bolts and broken parts, it’s better to fix that stuff now than to be caught off guard at the beginning of the season when we get that first big snow (Yeah right, like that ever happens). 

2.       FUEL STABILIZER:  It is essential to put fuel stabilizer in with the gas in your tank.  For years it was common practice to run the tank dry but now the consensus is to fill your tank and add fuel stabilizer, this keeps moisture from building up in your tank and keeps all of the fuel lines fresh.  Make sure you run the engine for a while to get the fuel stabilizer throughout the system to protect everything.

3.       GREASE AND LUBE EVERYTHING:  I always like to grease my sled up after I have cleaned it, it gets any water out of your joints and protects everything from corroding. This is also when I change out my chain case oil and basically perform all of the other maintenance that should be done on the sled so when winter hits you are 100% ready to go.  I know a lot of guys that spray things down with WD-40 as well because it helps repel moisture over the summer and keeps things from rusting. I’ve found this to be a pretty effective tool.

4.       PROTECTANT ON THE PLASTIC AND RUBBER:  I always put Armorall on the plastic and rubber and it has helped keep everything in pristine condition.  There are a variety of other sprays available at your dealer that you can use as well that are specifically designed to shine and protect your sled. 

5.       FOGGING/ SHUTTING DOWN:  Several new sleds have a summer shut down procedure built in, it’s always a good idea to fog your engine too as it just keeps everything protected.  

6.       COVER IT UP:  Once everything is dry it is best to cover your sled to protect it from dust and sun damage.

7.       A LIFT:  Ideally if you can get a sled lift and get your sled up off the ground it does wonders for prolonging the life of your suspension.  If a snowmobile lift isn’t in your budget rollers are also nice and they make it easy to move the sled around the garage.  At the very minimum you should get the track off the ground- yes it puts added pressure on the front suspension but the only thing in contact with the ground will be your carbides and those are a lot cheaper to replace than a rotted out track.

8.       REPLACE AND REPAIR ANYTHING BROKEN:  Summer is a great time to work on your sled, primarily because it is not 20 below zero

9.       VISIT YOUR SLED AND START IT ONCE A MONTH:  People will argue about this one but on the first of every month I go out and start up all of my sleds and run them for a few minutes (Don’t run them too long because they will overheat quickly) I find that this keeps everything moving and keeps your snowmobile an overall a happier machine, it also gives you the opportunity to check for mice as they like to build nests in a nice comfy snowmobile chassis protected by a snowmobile cover.  The best part of your monthly sled visits is that it keeps your winter blood flowing and keeps your sled from getting lonely while it waits month after month for it to snow.

If you follow all of these tips you will be the first one out when winter comes while everyone else is scrambling to get their rides ready and you can spend summer nights in your garage with a beer knowing that when the temperature starts dropping that adrenaline machine in the corner will be ready to go.

IS IT TIME TO REVISIT THE GRANT-IN-AID TRAIL DATES IN MINNESOTA?

11a1This past week, nearly the entire state of Minnesota was pummeled by a record setting snowstorm, but is April snow that uncommon?  No.  Granted, by April 1st often times spring has already hit the Twin Cities but up North and especially in the Arrowhead where Lake Superior adds its two cents worth of snow to the higher elevations all winter long, the ground cover stays fairly deep well past the 1st of April.  In fact, this part of the state has had good riding conditions past April 1st in five of the last ten years with ground cover of over 36 inches! But yet the Grant-In-Aid trails all close their gates on April 1st leaving hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails illegal to ride.  The idea of extending the riding dates past April 1st to possibly April 15th have been tossed around several times and we here at snowmobiletrail.com want your input on this topic.  Do you think extending the season to April 15th is a good idea?  You can answer in the comment section below or leave your comments on our facebook page.  Before you are quick to answer, however, let’s examine some of the pluses and minuses of this plan.

                The upside of extending the season is obvious- More riding time.  While there has been good snow cover past the April 1st cutoff date five of the last ten years, during that same time period the trails have only opened on time (December 1st) just ONCE!

 

THE NEGATIVES

                Yes there are negatives to extending the season.

1.       Inconvenience to Land Owners:  The biggest negative is that you are asking landowners for an extra 2 weeks of having snowmobiles cross their land, which may make it harder to convince them to sign lease agreements.  Plus snowmobilers often still ride when the trails are getting thin in some areas and on GIA trails that could mean damage to the trail surface which also would deter land owners from signing leases. However, one could argue that if you are a GIA land holder you expect snowmobilers to ride when there is snow.

2.       Added Groomer Commitment/ Expense:  For many of the northern clubs groomer funds are already running thin and an extra two weeks of the season could potentially mean an extra two weeks of grooming and with money already being tight this could put an additional financial strain on some clubs- but, if the season continues to start late you would probably just wind up shifting the early December money to cover the additional early April grooming time.

3.       Ice:  This is a killer for both riders and groomers.  Often times Ice bridges, swamps and lakes begin to thaw making it hard or impossible for groomers to groom in late March.  Having trails open in April could mean that the ice is no longer safe. Most state trails like the CJ Ramstad North Shore Trail have been constructed to limit the amount of swamp land that they go through, whereas many GIA trail traverse large tracts of swamps, streams and lakes which often delay their opening and prompt frequent early closures. These trails would still have to be closed even if snow cover on other parts of the trail is adequate.

4.       Parking:  Many parking lots for GIA trails are in fields that are normally frozen in the winter, when these areas thaw it may be difficult to get a truck and trailer safely in and out of these temporary winter parking lots.

 

So as you can see there are both good and bad sides to this coin, but as long as we keep getting pummeled with these late season storms, this question will keep coming up, especially when you are looking at a trail that has two feet of fresh powder on it that you can’t ride on. 

TODAY ON THE TRAIL 4/15/18

a415WOW! Today was totally Epic! We were a little ambitious going out today but we couldn’t pass up all of the snow piling up out there. The snow was light and fluffy and we initially sank right down to the dirt in some spots but in other areas there was still an icy base underneath. As the snow kept piling up this soon became a non-issue and we had one of our best day of snowstorm riding in the past four years, putting on over sixty miles- we prob…ably could have done more but we got a pretty late start and had to get back. We did run across a few snowmobile tracks here and there but only saw one other guy on the trail all day-Chris, who had prepped his sled for the summer but like us said he just couldn’t pass up all of the snow. Too bad this is April, maybe some day we could get a day storm like this in December! Since it is April remember that if you do ride STAY OFF THE GRANT-IN-AID trails- they closed April 1st. State trail only!

THE LAST DAY ON THE TRAIL 3/17/18: EPIC

a318After riding last weekend we were resigned to the fact that the season was going to be pretty much over, but after getting reports on Thursday that the trails from Two Harbors north were still in good shape we decided to trailer up to the Alger lot and head North from there.  We pulled in at 8:00 AM to find that we were the first to arrive.  I walked over to the trail to see that it had been groomed the night before and that it was soft (not rock hard frozen).  We unloaded and rode to the Yukon, our plan was to head to the Knotted Pine Resort but once we got on the Yukon it was so hard and icy that my temp started skyrocketing.ab318  I suggested we head back to the North Shore Trail where the snow was a little more powdery to get into the heat exchangers.  We rode north on the NSST and my temp came under control, Allen, however, insisted on getting back to the Yukon so we took the Yukon spur and started our trip to Knotted Pine.  If last week gave us the best riding conditions of the season, then this week was a close second.  The Yukon trail was absolutely fantastic and we made great time until we got about 6 miles away from Knotted Pine and hit logging activity and a snowless trail.  With snow being crucial in these warm temps we reluctantly turned back, failing to reach our objective.  Still an AWESOME day of riding.  By the time we got back to the lot it was a whopping 44 degrees, and we knew that in spite of the deep snow (as much as 3 feet)  the trails aren’t going to hold up much longer. All in all it was a great way to cap off the season!

3/16/18 NORTHEAST MINNESOTA SNOWMOBILE TRIL CONDITION UPDATE

It’s not over yet!  So here’s the scoop- around Duluth bare patches have turned into bare sections of the trail.  The North Shore Trail is open and groomed but there is not much of it left and it is icy- I see it being a definite issue with slides and engine temps.  The GIA trails around Duluth are not recommended riding as they go through private property and there are so many thin and bare spots that there can be some damage done to the trail surface and vegetation underneath and we want to avoid such things.  We did, however, have some guys ride down from Two Harbors tonight and conditions up there were much better- so good in fact that we are loading up the trailer and heading north- the general consensus is if you put in anywhere from Two Harbors north you will be okay but probably only for a day as Saturday highs look to be in the mid forties.  We’ve also been told that trails away from the Arrowhead are pretty bad as well with big stretches of bare spots.  We suggest staying on the North Shore trail and the trails that are close to it as they all seem to have good snow.  We are expecting LOTS of traffic up here this weekend and the trails are hard and icy so lets all ride smart and not act like we’re in a snocross race.  Slow down, be safe and have fun.

TODAY ON THE TRAIL 3/10/18

1tuOne of the best things about snowmobiling is its unpredictability.  You have no idea what the trail is going to hold for you or who you will meet and today was no exception for us.  The latest snowstorm missed the Duluth area and we knew that last week there were already some bare spots on the trail.  Because of that we decided to revert to our old standby the CJ Ramstad North Shore State Trail.  Too be honest I had grown a little tired of the NSST this year as for most of the season it was the only rideable trail we had.  Lack of snow had kept most of the GIA trails closed or in horrible riding condition until mid February so the prospects of abandoning them and going back to the NSST was not something we looked forward to, but in the real world it was our best option.

Right away I was surprised to see that there were already six trailers in the Martin Rd. Lot, usually we are the first ones there but not today.  As I waited for Allen’s sled to be unloaded I watched the other trailers unloading their sleds and thought I recognized one of the guys unloading.  He looked and sounded like my childhood neighbor Randy.  Randy was a few years older than me but like everyone else that grew up on my street he was a big time snowmobiler.  I had bumped into him once or twice over the last 30 years and I wasn’t entirely sure that it was him.  I went over and asked and was astonished to find out that it was in fact my old neighbor Randy.  The odds that I recognized him and that he would happen to be in the lot at the same time as we were were astronomical.  As it turned out that was only our fist surprise of the day.  Our second Surprise was how awesome the trail was.  It had been groomed the night before and was solid and icy but smooth.  I instantly started having overheating fears as I watched my temperature gauge climbing.  The trail was so hard that I wasn’t getting enough snow into the heat exchangers and the sporadic bare patches didn’t help.  As we left Duluth conditions gradually improved and the temp started to drop, alleviating my fears.  We hit the gravel Pit where the Reservoir Riders trail comes in and had a decision to make.  Allen decided we should keep heading north as we knew the snow was better so that’s what we did.  Enter astonishing moment #2- as soon as we left the pit the trail got better and better, in fact they were the best trails we had seen since January of 2014 and the farther north we went the better they were.  We rode up to the Yukon where we bumped into who else- but Randy and his friend Eric who were taking a break on the side of the trail.  We sat around and talked sleds for a while and then headed up the Yukon.  We spent the rest of an amazing day hitting trail after trail, each one better than the last.  If you didn’t ride today you missed out big time.  Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Mother Nature is going to cooperate for the rest of the season as temps are projected to climb into the mid forties by Wednesday.

Perfect trails like this were the rule of thumb for the day

Perfect trails like this were the rule of thumb for the day

NORTHEAST MINNESOTA SNOWMOBILE TRAIL CONDITION UPDATE

Snow.  For the most part snow has been avoiding the Duluth area all winter.  So right now 30 miles south of Duluth snow conditions are great- 30 miles north of Duluth snow conditions are great- The trails around Duluth have some bare spots and ice but they are rideable- I would call them fair to good depending on what direction they are running as south facing trails are taking a beating from the sun.  If you are North or south outside of the no new snow band I would call the trails good to excellent.  That being said the clubs around Duluth are out there moving snow trying to cover the thin areas for the weekend.  With the forecast ahead this could be the last weekend of good riding.