Author Archives: John Hartley

JUNE 21st BLOG

1a1221Once again we touch base with all of our followers on the longest day of the year. From here on out the days start getting shorter as we march toward our favorite season. As we all enjoy the summer and things start getting back to normal we are very happy to announce some very big changes taking place at snowmobiletrail.com this year. We will be really ramping up things in Northeast Minnesota, giving you more frequent trail condition updates and adding a video component to the website where we will feature video updates of what’s going on in the Northeast part of the state. If you are coming from Michigan, Wisconsin, Southern Minnesota or anywhere else in the snowmobiling world we will be providing you with the best and most up to date Northeast Minnesota trail conditions possible along with a ton of snowmobile related articles on the Northeast Minnesota Snowmobiling Blog. We hope you enjoy these upcoming changes and look forward to seeing you out on the trail this winter. As always thank you all for your support!!!

SNOWMOBILING IN THE WORLD OF COVID-19

1a201Covid-19 made its appearance in full force at the tail end of the 2019-20 snowmobile season.  As the season came to an end, stay at home orders were put in place across the Snow Belt.  For years, public health officials had decried that Americans spend far too much time indoors and encouraged everyone to pursue outdoor activities.  Those pleas fell on deaf ears as more and more Americans wasted away in front of computer screens and cell phones.  Then in April we were told that everyone needs to stay home, stay indoors and watch TV and play video games and surf the internet, so just like a child that gets told they can’t have a piece of candy the general public revolted and became obsessed with being outdoors.  Record sales were seen in the RV, Boat and ATV industry as families decided to social distance in the great outdoors and as winter approaches the Snowmobile industry is experiencing the same enormous increase in demand with many dealers selling out of any sleds they had in stock.  And it’s not just new sleds flying out of the showroom, used sleds are in high demand and many old dusty pieces of iron out in the barn are being dusted off as registrations for older sleds have seen a giant surge and shops have been flooded with old Indy’s and MXZ’s needing some touch ups to be brought back to life.  Dealers and parts houses nationwide are running out of parts as the supply chain has been interrupted coupled with record demand.  The number of first time snowmobile buyers is skyrocketing and the future of the sport hasn’t looked this good since the boom in the 90s. 

So what does this mean for snowmobiling in the 2020-21 season? Along with the positive aspects of a growing sport there can be some drawbacks as well.  For one, we will see a lot of new and inexperienced riders out on the trail, with snowmobile safety courses being done nearly all on line with little or no in person testing combined with a number of adults who will just skip the safety course all together, we will undoubtedly see an increased level of stupid trail accidents- especially the annoying completely avoidable ones with people riding on the wrong side of the trail.  Trespassing issues will also be a concern as more uneducated people leave the trail to ride in restricted areas or on private property.  Lastly there will be an increased number of speed related injuries as riders exceed safe speeds or are unable to handle the performance of the high performance machines.  We have already seen this scenario play out this summer with a huge spike in ATV crashes caused by speeding, drunk driving, rollovers and too many riders on a machine. Additional issues that can be unique to snowmobiling are the potential for riders to become lost or stranded especially in bad weather, as well as increased avalanche potential as more riders flock to the mountains. We are also likely to see more exposure related complications as people head out unprepared without proper gear.

Despite the negative impact there is a huge upside- lots of new people being exposed to the greatest winter recreational activity in existence.  This is an opportunity for all of us to strengthen the snowmobile community and ensure the survival of our sport.  The backbone of snowmobiling has always been that it is an activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family and the family aspect of the sport has been listed as the #1 most enjoyable attribute of snowmobiling since it began.

A few things to remember out on the trail this year:  Make sure you have your lodging squared away as there will be a lot of people staying in hotels and motels.  Be aware of fuel stops- some businesses have closed due to the pandemic and where you once had fuel there may not be fuel available in that area any longer.  Pack some food and water with you, many restaurants and bars have restrictions or are flat out closed.  Be careful and slow down, there are likely to be a handful of idiots out there (even in a normal season) and there are going to be many more inexperienced riders on the trail.  Be prepared with emergency and survival gear, you never know when you or someone else will get in a bad situation.  And lastly, have fun!  Snowmobiling is all about having a good time and passing that good time on to others.  As the ultimate social distancing sport this has the potential to be a historic season, let’s all get through it safe and healthy!!!

2020 POLARIS INDY XC 800 REVIEW

aindy3

Hello Everyone!  It is June 21st, the longest day of the year.  From here forward the days start getting shorter and we creep ever closer to our favorite time of the year.  To celebrate here is a review of the 2020 Indy XC 800.  This should have been published back in April but lets just blame the Coronavirus for this being late.  So here you go:

Before I begin this review of the Polaris Indy XC I need to give you a brief back story.  I am a Ski-Doo guy, I have always been and always will be, so how did I end up on an Indy XC?  That is where the back story comes in.  I grew up riding Ski-Doos and when I moved back to Minnesota in the early 90’s I assumed that I would hop right back on a snowmobile, but there was college, a house payment and a new baby that kept the snowmobile thing on hold for about ten years.  Once things calmed down and finances improved, my wife decided it was time we got back into snowmobiling.  I went out and bought my gear before I even bought a sled and, assuming I would buy a Ski-Doo, I even bought a yellow and black helmet.  The plan was to get a touring sled so my wife and I could ride and our 5 year old daughter could stay at home with the baby sitter.  After searching for a good used Ski-Doo Grand Touring I stumbled across a 2000 Indy 600 Touring sled that was in near mint condition at a price I could not pass up- so here I was decked out in Ski-Doo colors on a Polaris.

Shortly after buying the sled my daughter wanted to know what all the excitement was about with this new snowmobile thing, all it took was a couple of laps around the field behind our house and she was hooked.  At the end of the season my wife decided she would buy a sled for herself so that I could take our daughter on the two up and all three of us could be on the trail at once.  My wife, not being brand loyal, found a sweet 2001 Indy 500 with some aftermarket snocross suspension modifications and bought it for herself, now I was a Ski-Doo guy with two Polaris’.  Now fast-forward several years to my daughter getting her snowmobile safety certificate and wanting her own sled, having grown up on a Polaris her choice for her first sled was obvious- a 1999 Indy Super Sport 550, now I was a Ski-Doo guy with three Polaris’ in my garage!   I knew someday I would be upgrading, and a Renegade was in my sights, that was until 2013 when Polaris came out with the new Indy.  My buddy bought one and the moment I sat on it it fit me like a glove, just the overall body position and handling it possessed had me sold.  In 2014 our 2001 Indy 500 met its demise and it was time to buy a new sled.  I debated between the Indy and a Renegade and in the end the 2015 Indy 600 SP won out primarily because after riding my buddy’s Indy and my other buddy’s Renegade the Indy just fit me better (and the price tag didn’t hurt much either).  At this point I’m starting to think that maybe I’m turning into a Polaris guy even though I keep thinking of myself as a Ski-Doo guy. 

Now fast-forward to 2018 and the introduction of the Indy XC on the Axys Chassis, right away it caught my eye- specifically for the longer track and the ability to turn it into a two up at any time with the aid of a few attachments.  My Polaris loving friend bought a new XC for 2019 and as soon as I rode it I loved it even more than my SP.  After the 2018-19 winter ended, our old 2000 Indy 600 Touring was beginning to show its age and had become a constant nickel and dime money pit.  I sat down with my wife and told her all about the Indy XC and how it was prewired for a two up seat with heated grips, we don’t ride two up as much anymore and our daughter is off in college but when she comes home she usually brings a friend and takes them out on the two-up.  We were starting to be less and less confident that the old 600 Touring could continue to hold up on some of our longer rides and not wanting to take the chance of being stranded my wife agreed that it was time to upgrade.  With the green light for a new sled I was off to the dealer to snow check my 2020 Indy XC.  1aindyWhat I loved about the Indy besides the accessories were all of the other options Polaris offered, unfortunately I was under a strict budget and I made a list of needs and wants. I loved the Polaris build your ride where you could pick colors graphics and just about anything else you wanted.  After getting my colors set I went to the track and chose the 129 1.25” Ice Ripper. 

With a few clicks of a button the Indy XC easily converts from a one up to a two up

With a few clicks of a button the Indy XC easily converts from a one up to a two up

I Figured the 129 was a good compromise between trail and off trail riding.  As 75% of my riding is trail based and having rode with longer tracks I felt the 129 would give me enough length but not too much for the tight corners.  I also knew that the 1.25” lugs were a great trail height and were good enough off trail as well and the Ice ripper gave me the added traction of studs without having to stud the track.  Next up was the motor, I loved my 600 Indy and 90% of the time for the trails we ride in Northeast Minnesota the 600 was plenty fast enough, where my problems started with the 600 is every time we went off trail.  The 600 could get my fat butt through the snow but it was working very hard and just didn’t have the power I wanted in the powder and now with a longer track with deeper lugs I knew I had to step up on the power plant, the question was do I go with the old 800 or the new 850?  Again, money was also a concern and the 850 was almost $1,000 more.  Did I really need to spend an extra grand for 50cc’s? I decided I did not.  I know there are 850 guys out there screaming at their computer right now but the 800 has been a good motor for a long time and I’m happy with it.  I also got the high windshield because I ride regardless of how cold it is and I want a warm sled, then came the display gauge- I really liked the idea of the ride command gauge with all of the bells and whistles and maps and GPS but again it was another grand and I have ridden my whole life without any of that stuff so I figured I’d stay under budget and get the regular display. Then I tacked on the two up seat and a few other accessories and I was done.

Now all I had to do was wait.  The last time I ordered a sled in April it showed up in Late September so as September rolled around my excitement started to build, September came and went- no sled, but that’s okay you have October, which also came and went- NO SLED.  Then November, half way through the month I called the dealer and they said it would be there before Thanksgiving, which came and went- then we got a huge dump of snow at the end of November for the first time in God knows how long and still NO SLED.  Here I was with the season actually starting on time but luckily my Indy 600 was still there for me.  The dealer was now also getting upset because their stuff was not in and they were getting crushed with calls from people wanting their rides.  I talked to one of our loyal snowmobietrail.com readers who said when he ordered his Ski-Doo a few years back he didn’t get it until January!!! But he did say that once he got on it he forgot about being angry.  How could something you order in April show up half way through the season?  That’s like ordering an RV in December and getting it in August, this was a true WTF moment for me.  Then finally the call came just days before Christmas that my sled was in.  My overwhelmed dealer got it uncrated prepped and ready to go in 24 hours so big Kudos to them.

I got the sled home and warmed it up with a few laps around the yard before I hit the field behind my house.  I had saved the powder back there for the new sled and right away I couldn’t believe how well it performed.  I could stop it in the fluff and hammer it and it just dug itself out.  Then I hit the trail and couldn’t believe how well it handled, it felt like it was glued to the trail and cornered as if it was on rails (oh and I forgot all about being angry that it was so late).  For the next 3 months I put the sled through its paces, deep snow, hard pack, frozen trail, extreme cold, you name it, I did it, and no matter what I threw at it it performed flawlessly every time.  By the end of the season I felt as though I may have found the perfect trail sled.  At least for me it felt that way.  So, in conclusion my review of the 2020 Polaris Indy XC 800: Kick Ass!

RIDE RECAP: YETI TOUR 10

1ayt1February 22, 2020 marked the tenth Annual Yeti Tour charity event which benefits the Northland Newborn Foundation, a charity to help parents of children that are born prematurely or with complications.  The money raised by this event stays right in the Duluth area to help local families.  Since its inception in 2010 the event has continued to grow and has raised over $250,000.    

As with any snowmobile charity event you are at the mercy of the weather and the Yeti Tour has seen more than its fair share of poor conditions.  Yeti Tour 1 in 2011 had perhaps the most ideal conditions of all- back then it was a two day event and the temps both days were in the 20’s with plenty of snow and excellent trails.  Yeti Tours 2 & 3 had the riding portion of the event cancelled for lack of snow.  Yeti Tour 4 in 2014 was the coldest event in the tour’s history with riding temps bottoming out at -20 degrees Fahrenheit. After that, the Tour date was moved to late February.  Yeti Tour 5 was run in low snow conditions but was still able to take place, Yeti Tour 6 took place in the rain, Yeti Tour 7 saw record high temperatures with the thermometer topping out at 60 degrees, Yeti Tour 8 was again plagued with rideable but low snow totals and finally Yeti Tour 9 went off with perfect temperatures and perfect trails.

  So what would Yeti Tour 10 give us?  Leading up to the event things looked promising with some of, if not the best trail conditions Northeast Minnesota has seen in over 10 years, but, as luck would have it, the day of the event ushered in the warmest day of the year so far.  Things started out well as the record number of riders (70) gathered at the Island Lake Inn for the pre-ride check in.  At 9:00 the temperature was a comfortable 21 degrees and the ride kicked off with various groups of sleds leaving together. This is where the Yeti Tour differs from other organized rides as the groups mesh together based on riding style/ friends etc., everyone picks a group to head out with and then things settle in from there.

  For the third year in a row I was riding with my buddy Allen and for the second year in a row we hooked up with Legendary Yeti Rider Dave Cannon who was riding with his friend Dale. Once Dave met us in the staging area we headed out across Island Lake to the Reservoir Lakes trail.  The trail was already showing the effects of heavy weekend traffic but all in all it was relatively smooth.  We passed several groups of Yeti riders and settled in to a quick pace.  We reached the iconic CJ Ramstad North Shore Trail and were greeted by a fresh flat pan put down the night before by the Drift Toppers snowmobile club out of Duluth, then it was on to the beautifully groomed Pequaywan trail which led us to the Pequaywan Inn for Lunch.  At the Pequaywan we found that there was one other group of Yeti Riders still ahead of us and they had elected to go on to Hugos before taking a break.  Dave, Dale, Allen and I filled up on burgers and fries before hitting the trail again and by the time we left, the Pequaywan Parking lot was jammed full of sleds and the bar was now overflowing with riders. 

The Pequaywan Parking Lot

The Pequaywan Parking Lot

After taking a few pictures of the throng of sleds we maneuvered our way back onto the Pequaywan Trail and rode to the equally mint condition Brimson Trail which led us to Hugos for refueling.  Hugos was packed with non-Yeti Tour riders who were just out enjoying the excellent conditions and for the rest of the day we experienced a heavy amount of traffic from riders taking advantage of the perfect trails.  The group that was still out ahead of us were headed to the John A. Brandt Memorial Shelter on the Yukon Trail which has become a favorite destination for the Yeti Tour Riders since the route changed for Yeti Tour 4.  We maintained a quick comfortable pace all the way to the Yukon Trail which also had been freshly groomed the night before and from there it was up to the shelter where we finally caught up with the Lead Yeti Tour Group.  We hung out at the shelter for a while with the ever growing number of riders, some of whom were enjoying the 40 degree temps by roasting marshmallows and making smores over the fire.  The four of us decided we would head north for a while and enjoy the Yukon before doubling back to the North Shore Trail and heading home.  Once we made it back to the North Shore Trail the temperature had risen to the high for the day of 43 degrees and we had to take off some layers and open up jacket vents to keep cool.  The snow had become soft and started clumping together and the sleds were starting to run a little warm from lack of snow dust getting kicked up to cool the heat exchangers, now we were rooster tailing big chunks of snow from behind us as we were going down the trail.  We rode back to Duluth passing sled after sled heading north and finally separated from Dave and Dale as they elected to head over to Fish Lake and check out the vintage run that was going on there. 

I went home, took a little nap and then rode back to the Island Lake Inn for the Yeti Tour celebration dinner.  The inn was packed with a record turnout of riders and their friends and families. There were also prize packages to be auctioned off as well as a number of door prizes and a fabulous pizza buffet.  The night culminated with a brand new four wheeler being given away to the Yeti Tour Raffle winner courtesy of RJ Sport and Cycle and Honda.  As I rode home from another fun and exciting Yeti Tour, a bit of sadness came over me knowing that yet another Yeti Tour was over, kind of like the feeling you get on Christmas after everyone has opened their presents and gone home for the evening.  The good news is that there is still some good riding to be had and before you know it Yeti Tour 11 will be on its way. What new adventures will Yeti Tour 11 bring?  You can find out by signing up to ride next fall at www.yetitour.com. 

NORTHEAST MINNESOTA TRAIL CONDITIONS UPDATE 2/21/20

1a1221The very cold conditions we have had the past week went a long way in freezing some of the wet and soft spots that have been plaguing the trails all winter. The clubs were able to rebuild and repair the ice bridges and fill in the holes and the trails are about as perfect as they can get- a firm thick hard base with loose snow on top to keep you running cool, our only concern now is the forecasted above freezing temps on tap for the weekend. The Yeti Tour will also be running this Saturday on the North Shore, Pequaywan, Brimson, Yukon and Reservoir Riders trails.

WHAT DOES THIS SIGN MEAN?

1sot1At snowmobiletrail.com we have the privilege of talking to multiple snowmobile club representatives throughout the season about trails and trail conditions and various things that plague the average trail system.  When talking to these different club reps we find that there are common threads that run through multiple clubs and near the top of the list of club complaints are riders that ignore trail signs- primarily the ones that say “Stay On Trail” or “Trail Closed.”  At the tail end of last season a member from a southern Minnesota club shared an E-mail with me that he had gotten from a rider complaining about rock piles in an old farm field.  The rider complained that he had gone off trail through the field and hit a rock pile, wrecking his sled.  He contended that the club should mark these rock piles to keep riders safe.  Now it just so happens that all along the trail going through this field are signs that say “Stay On Trail” The club member informed the rider that is exactly why the “Stay On Trail” signs were there- to keep people out of the field to avoid hitting hazards like the rock pile and because the club only had permission to have the trail through the edge of the field.  Time and time again this scenario is repeated throughout the state- reports of riders going off trail or ignoring trail closed signs and barricades.  Often this results in clubs losing trail access with land owners and trails being closed.  So what exactly does the “Stay On Trail” sign mean?  Those three words mean quite a lot.

                One function of the Stay On Trail sign is to protect land owners’ rights.  Most of the time trails pass through PRIVATE PROPERTY and the club has been given permission to put the trail through that piece of property with an agreement between the club and the property owner that only the designated trail path will be used by snowmobilers.  Many times a club has to put up a snow fence to keep people on the trail but that takes time and can be quite expensive, for long stretches (for example a farm field) a series of stay on trail signs should suffice but riders become tempted by that open field of powder, leave the trail, the owner sees that people are now trespassing on his land and then bam- trail closed.

                Another function of the stay on trail sign is to protect the rider.  We have several trails in Northern Minnesota that go through areas that have just been logged and although it looks like a clean field of white powder, there are stumps and rocks lurking just beneath the snow that are guaranteed to destroy your sled, the same can be said for certain stretches of power lines or other areas such as swamps, bogs etc. that pose a hazard if you were to venture off trail.  Every year we see riders destroy sleds or worse yet be seriously injured or killed by going off trail in areas that are lined with Stay On Trail signs- they hit culverts, rocks, stream beds or even ride off of cliffs- all because they ignored the sign, and early this season clubs and sheriffs departments were plagued with people that rode past Trail Closed signs and broke through thin ice, costing them thousands of dollars in sled repairs and rescue bills. 

                So what does the “Stay On Trail” sign really mean?  It is simply a short version of a sign that should say: “Stay on trail or we will lose this easement and this trail will be closed forever, additionally there are rocks stumps ice and unsafe conditions off of the side of this trail that will most assuredly destroy your sled and will cause you to be seriously injured or killed.”  That is what the “Stay on Trail” sign really means- so when you see it- STAY ON TRAIL!

AN URGENT MESSAGE FROM THE SNOWMOBILE CLUBS OF MINNESOTA, WISCONSIN AND MICHIGAN

A- snow in waterIt seems that on a daily basis that there is a post of a groomer or snowmobile that has broken through the ice on a trail that goes through swamp land.  One of the biggest advantages of snowmobiling is that a snowmobile allows you to reach places that are inaccessible  at any other time of year because these areas are surrounded by swamp or wetlands that can only be traversed when frozen in the winter. This allows snowmobilers access to some of the most scenic and breathtaking places in the state that would otherwise go unseen.  Although as snowmobilers we are happy to have early snow after a long summer of waiting for our favorite time of year we must remember that there are swamps, bogs, lakes, rivers and streams that have not yet frozen and are not safe to travel on.  The heavy snow, although a blessing, has also insulated these places from freezing and all we can do is wait for these areas to freeze.  Snowmobile clubs are tasked with creating safe trails for our states riders and we know more about these trails than anyone.  It is for this reason that trails have either not been groomed or are posted as closed. We ask that you understand why trails are not being groomed- a snowmobile weighs 600 pounds, a big groomer and drag can weigh 10,000 pounds.  Sleds can go over ice that may not be safe for a groomer, therefore we will not groom until the ice is safe for crews to work.  Secondly, when you see a trail posted as closed it does not mean it is okay to ignore the sign or ride past the barricades.  The trail is closed because it has been determined not to be safe du to poor conditions, downed trees etc.  Ignoring these signs could not only get you in trouble with the authorities it could also get you a trip to the morgue.  We want all snowmobilers to come home safely, and we want all of our volunteers to get home safely as well.  Please be patient and eventually we will get everything opened up and groomed.  Thank you and RIDE SAFE!

FOR THE LOVE OF SNOW

CIMG1053There is one thing that all snowmobilers in the world have in common- the love of snow.  Every year there comes a day in the late fall where you go outside and there it is, the chill and smell of the cold air and the unmistakable feeling of approaching snow, then you hear it, that call deep inside of you, it is quiet at first but as you approach your garage it gets louder.  You open your garage door and you can hear it even louder, your heart begins to beat faster and you walk over and pull the cover off of your sled, there it is all clean and shining from when you washed it and waxed it and put it away last spring.  A smile crosses your face and for a moment you feel as though your sled is smiling back at you.  You grab the keys from your pocket and fire it up, the two stroke smoke starts drifting around you and your heart starts racing as you soak it all in.  You hit the kill switch and stare outside, and then it comes, that first flake floating gently to the ground, then another and then another.  They start falling more rapidly and you can hear them gently falling on the dried leaves and dead grass.  “Soon” you tell your sled as you give the handlebars a pat and head back inside.  Throughout the night you flick on the outside flood light and watch the snow piling up outside.  Your mind drifts back to when you were a kid looking out your front window at the snowflakes being lit up by the street light and wondering if there would be school the next day and you would go to bed just hoping that you would wake up in the morning and look out your bedroom window to see snow piled up everywhere and the radio telling you that school was canceled, you would jump out of bed and grab your sled and call your friends to head over to the biggest hill in the neighborhood that everyone went sledding on.  Now you go to bed the same way, hoping that when you wake up there will be snow everywhere- you have a couple of PTO days available to take and you just hope that when the alarm goes off in the morning you can call your boss and say you can’t make it in, then you debate, do I snow blow the driveway or do I hop on the sled, but by the time your brain has answered your heart has already grabbed the sled keys and you started putting your bibs on, you’ve been waiting long enough, it’s time to ride!!!  

Every day the temperature is dropping and we get one step closer.  Prepare yourselves snowmobile friends- WINTER IS COMING!!!

SNOWMOBILING’S 911 CALL

1aq1There are a large number of ailments that are affecting the health of the sport of snowmobiling: the economy, gas prices, declining registrations, competition from kid’s obsession with computers and video games, politicians, environmental activists, and warmer winters with less snow, all of these things play a role in the uncertainty of the future of our sport, but there is one thing that trumps all of these other factors, a silent killer that not only hurts the sport of snowmobiling but if left untreated will most assuredly kill the sport we love.  The good news is that every person reading this has the power to not only fix this problem but they also have the power to make the sport of snowmobiling stronger than it has ever been.  We at snowmobiletrail.com have been on this bandwagon for years, the snowmobile magazines have been on this bandwagon, businesses are on  board, the manufacturers are on board, the race community and everyone else that has a vested interest in the life of snowmobiling are on board but yet our cries fall on deaf ears and soon if these cries continue to go unheard the sport of snowmobiling as we know it will cease to exist, like the fate of the Titanic after hitting the iceberg,  it is a mathematical certainty.

Imagine going to the doctor for a check-up and, after running a battery of tests, the doctor comes in and tells you that you have several diseases and each one of them if left untreated will be fatal.  This is exactly what is happening to the sport of snowmobiling.  Then imagine that there is a magic pill that fixes just about everything, logic would dictate that you would take it but yet there are tens of thousands of snowmobilers that don’t.  That magic snowmobiling pill is joining a snowmobile club.

CLUBS IN CRISIS = SPORT IN CRISIS:  So why are the clubs in crisis?  The answer is simple, the clubs are aging- literally.  So many club members are getting older and older and literally dying off.  Without the younger club members getting involved there are less able bodied people to groom and brush the trails and eventually clubs lack enough people to do the work and the club disbands and the trails close.  There is a large misconception out there that the state and the DNR are responsible for the trails-that is not the case- it is the clubs that go out and get the easements and permits to build the trail and the clubs that maintain and groom them from there forward.  The clubs even have to work to raise funds to buy and maintain grooming equipment and then they need volunteers to run those groomers.  The clubs build the bridges, cut the brush and downed trees on the trails, put up the trail signs, teach snowmobile safety classes and send representatives to meet with the DNR and politicians at the state level to make sure snowmobilers needs are addressed, without them the sport of snowmobiling would die and it is dying right before our eyes. 

BENEFITS OF CLUB MEMBERSHIP:

1.      Promotion of the sport to friends, family members, and young snowmobilers:    One of the biggest problems in the sport that has the entire industry on edge is the ever declining numbers of youths taking up the sport of snowmobiling.  Since 2001 the number of students taking snowmobile safety classes has dropped by 62%!   The average age of snowmobilers keeps increasing and eventually we will hit a tipping point where there aren’t enough young snowmobilers to replace the old ones that die off.  Snowmobiling has long been thought of as a family sport but the drop in youth participation has alarmed the industry to the point that they have started building kid friendly sleds as evidenced by the new ¾ models released over the past few years.  The manufacturers realized that if they didn’t do something to keep kids involved the sport would be doomed.  That also led to the resurgence of the little 120 class sleds several years ago and now the ¾ sleds.  We all have a responsibility to bring friends and family, especially youth, out on the trails so they can experience the awesomeness of the snowmobiling world.  Too often we get hung up with hanging with our buddies and not getting the rest of the family out on the sleds.  We need young blood in the sport to keep the sport alive. We all know if you get a person who hasn’t been on a snowmobile before out on a good ride, they will be hooked.  Chances are the majority of the people reading this started riding when they were kids and their passion never died.  Remember that the next time you see kids out on the trail and encourage them to keep riding and welcome them to the family, the future of the sport depends on it.  The snowmobile club plays a huge role in getting youth involved just by providing a good well-groomed trail system.  Additionally clubs provide the snowmobile safety classes that are not only essential in getting younger riders involved but instilling the proper riding techniques at a young age that keep us all safe on the trails.  Without club members to teach classes, no new riders can get their permits and once again the sport dies.

2.      Registrations and Snowmobiling Laws:  Clubs play a vital role in meeting with the DNR and helping to determine how best to manage the sport.  One of the problems affecting the sport is the declining number of registrations.  States rely on registrations to fund the trail system, aka fund the clubs maintenance of the trails.  Without registrations there is no money to groom etc. The disturbing trend is that even though snowmobile sales have actually increased over the past few years, snowmobile registrations have decreased.  This means that there are a lot of rideable sleds out there sitting in people’s garages without current tags on them.  Part of this is lack of enforcement.  When the fine is less than a registration, people take their chances on getting caught, and when the DNR officers let people get off with just a warning for expired tabs it hurts us all.  These people will just continue to take their chances not realizing that their lack of registration will eventually lead to the demise of the trail system.  Joining a club helps spread awareness and helps improve the trail system.

3.      Fighting for your Snowmobiling Rights:  The reality of the modern day world is that there are  a number of groups out there that are basically trying to dictate to the rest of us what is an acceptable way to have fun.  We all know that politics are controlled by special interests and in many cases you need to be part of a vocal group to get your voice heard.  When there are groups out there that don’t want snowmobiles around then we must as snowmobilers ban together to protect our sport and funding for our sport.  Snowmobilers are huge economic contributors to the Northern and Mountain states and we are under ever increasing assault by groups that would like to do away with us.  We fight not only for ourselves but for others, like those that have physical disabilities that may prevent them from skiing or hiking but have the ability to get on a snowmobile and enjoy nature.  It is said that no one cares more about the duck population than duck hunters do and the same can be said for snowmobilers- snowmobilers love the outdoors and want the ability to explore it, but there are those out there trying to take that ability away from you.  Joining a snowmobile club gives you a powerful voice in protecting your sport and in many cases helps protect other off road recreational sports as well.

4.      Awesome Trails:  This is the one that always gets me.  My biggest pet peeve is the guy that complains about trail conditions, then you ask him “So do you belong to a club?” and more times than not the answer is “No.”  I used to be one of those guys and once I joined a club I realized that I had a huge role in making sure the trails in my area were in good shape.  That is what also alerted me to this crisis.  When I joined the club, 90% of its members were over 65 years old!  These guys are out there cutting up downed trees, fixing bridges and driving groomers in 20 below weather.  I made it a point to get as many new “younger” members as I could and within a few years we were able to turn our local trail system into one of the best maintained and most rideable trail systems in the area.

5.      Hanging Out With People That Love Snowmobiling:  The best part of joining a club is that you get to hang out with people that love snow as much as you do.  Everyone can’t wait for it to snow and is sad when it ends.  Club members all want to have the best trails possible and you have a network of people that are willing to ride with you at the drop of a hat, what can be better than that!

WHAT CAN YOU DO?  The answer is simple- Join a club.  In fact the state of Wisconsin was so concerned with their club crisis that they made joining a club mandatory when you register your sled- the result was higher registrations, higher youth involvement, higher sled sales, better trails and a huge surge in snowmobile participation and a very healthy state of the sport. Snowmobile clubs need you, even if you only volunteer to do an hour of trail work a season, that is one hour that wasn’t being done before.  Every little bit helps- make your voice heard and join a club today, you’ll be glad you did. 

A NEW SEASON HAS ARRIVED

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The leaves on the trees have begun to change color, the kids are going back to school, football season has started and snowmobile clubs are getting together after a long summer off, a new snowmobiling season is about to begin and a new season is beginning for us at snowmobiletrail.com.  Last year was a good year for us at snowmobiletrail.com as we have expanded our social media footprint.  Yes we spend the majority of our time in Northeast Minnesota but we address issues that affect the entire snowmobile community.  We are about all things snowmobile trail and whether that trail leads you to a beautiful mountain playground or your favorite watering hole, your trail issues are important to us.  As a group, everyone that rides a snowmobile is part of an extended family that wants to see the sport survive and grow and at times that means banning together to protect the sport we love.  Over the next few months we will have blogs on a number of topics to get you pumped up for a new winter but also to keep you up to date on what is happening around the world of snowmobiling.  Stay tuned, we have a lot of good stuff in store for you and you can always visit the website to read past articles in the Northeast Minnesota Snowmobile Blog Archives.  It’s never too early to start your snow dance!