This 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!
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.