You wake up on a Saturday morning, the air is crisp and cold, there are flurries falling from the sky. The night before you loaded up your sleds on the trailer and hooked it up to your truck. You load your riding gear in the back seat and drive to meet your buddy in the parking lot of your favorite trail and head out for a great day of riding, but have you ever wondered how that trail got there? Today’s blog is all about the birth of a snowmobile trail and you might be surprised how much work and planning really goes into it.
STEP 1: THE IDEA- Imagine there is a vast network of trails on the East side of your town and another large network of trails on the West side of town. You like riding both trail systems but you have always wished there was a connection between the two so you could ride both sets of trails in the same day. You look on your trail map and you see a narrow section of land dividing the two trail systems and you think to yourself “wouldn’t it be great to have a trail that connected these two large trail networks?” You can see the route in your mind but then you begin to wonder how such a thing would get done. You wonder where to start and the answer is quite simple- Your local snowmobile club.
STEP 2: THE SNOWMOBILE CLUB- So you do some investigating and find out that there is a snowmobile club in your town and it just so happens that many of the members of this club have had the same idea you had and they have started a committee to try and build a trail.
STEP 3: TALKING TO LAND OWNERS: You find that most of the trail that you would like to build goes through private property. Now comes the hardest task of all- going door to door talking to land owners to get their permission to build a trail that runs through their property. This is where most trail plans die. It is extremely difficult to get land owners to agree to let you put a snowmobile trail on their property, but, miraculously this happens every year and most snowmobilers are not aware of it. Many snowmobilers falsely assume that the state has decided to build a trail when in fact it is the snowmobile clubs that have put all the work in and gotten easements from the landowners for the use of their land. Permanent easements are the preferred way to go but often times trails are built using temporary easements which means the landowner can cancel the easement at any time and effectively shut down the trail. This is why you must respect the law and speed limits on the trails along with obeying the ever crucial “Stay On Trail” signs. People have given their permission to the club for use of their land- respect it! Every year snowmobile trails get shut down because some idiot snowmobiler did something stupid resulting in the cancelation of an easement. These people are allowing you to be on their property and without the cooperation of landowners our trail system would be dead. If you are lucky enough to obtain the proper easements then the physical work begins.
STEP 4: BUILDING THE TRAIL- This is where the actual physical labor of building a trail starts. This usually consists of gathering together all of the club members and spending hours on end cutting trees and clearing a path through the woods wide enough for the groomer. Sometimes this means dealing with difficult terrain like swamps and steep or rocky areas that may require the use of heavy equipment, all of which must be rented by the snowmobile cub at the clubs expense. That is another thing many snowmobilers are not aware of- all of the work done to maintain your trails is done by volunteers. This includes getting the proper permits from the DNR to build bridges and then the actual bridge building itself. None of these are easy tasks. All told it can take hundreds or even thousands of man hours to build a snowmobile trail and equal that in expenses.
STEP 5: MAINTAINING THE TRAIL- Now that your new snowmobile trail is in place it needs to be maintained year after year, that includes mowing brush, cutting fallen trees and overgrowth, fixing washouts and bridges, renewing temporary easements, and of course grooming all winter long and keeping the trail free from trash and debris- again, all work done by club volunteers.
THE PAYOFF: When it is all said and done you have one more trail that can be enjoyed by thousands of snowmobilers every year. As you can see, there is a lot that goes into your trail system and the lion’s share of that work is done by snowmobile clubs. We encourage every snowmobiler to join their local clubs because the more hands they have the better your trail system and riding experience will be!