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 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. 


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!


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!


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.


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


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.


18y1On February 17, 2018 the 8th Annual Yeti Tour to benefit the March of Dimes took place.   The Yeti Tour is a 140-mile snowmobile ride that was created by Nate and Kelly Alvar and a small group of friends who wanted to combine their love of snowmobiling with Kelly’s efforts to help newborns and moms.   Since the first event was held in 2011 it has become one of the premier snowmobiling fundraiser events and attracts a growing number of riders and sponsors despite being plagued by mother nature’s refusal to provide favorable snow and weather conditions on multiple occasions.  This irony was once again played out after this year’s event when upon completion of the festivities on Saturday the 17th it literally started snowing.  Even with all of the weather adversity the Yeti Tour has endured it has still managed to raise over $150,000 for the March of Dimes. has been a sponsor of the Yeti Tour since its inception and once again we rode in this outstanding event, which, as usual, contributed its fair share of unusual occurrences…

The morning started off beautifully, a crisp 15 degrees when I rolled into the Sunset Bar and Grill lot to hook up with my riding buddy Allen and the rest of the Yeti Tour riders.  We were informed before the event that our usual route from the Sunset to Fish Lake was impassable do to heavy logging activity that had stripped several miles of trail of any snow.  Our new route would detour us from the Sunset along the new Rice Lake trail to the Martin Rd. Lot and the head of the CJ Ramstad North Shore State Trail- a familiar trail to those of us at as our headquarters sits just a few hundred yards from the trail.  Because of this change in route only about 35 riders were starting at the Sunset, another 20 riders were spread out at alternate starting points:  Fish Lake, The North Shore State Trail Head parking lot on Martin Rd, and Billy’s Bar and Grill. This brought the total riders for the event to 55, a new record number of riders for the event. The plan was that the different starting pods would all converge at the old gravel pit where the Reservoir Lakes Trail and the North Shore Trail meet up.  This years event was being documented in pictures and video by Ron Alvar who would tag along on his gear laden 1998 Polaris Touring sled to capture all of the memorable moments.

With Ron’s camera rolling, the Yeti Contingency departed the Sunset at 9:00 AM led temporarily by Jim Bianchi, the president of the Hermantown Snowmobile club, to guide the group of sleds through the trail to Martin Rd.  Part of our new route was also being worked on by Minnesota Power as they were installing new power poles leaving us with a few spots of the trail that had been entirely cleared of snow.

                Once we hit the North Shore Trail the group started to fracture into its own little cliques.   One of the things I like the most about the Yeti Tour is the ability to settle in with a group of riders that enjoy your same pace.  The Yeti Tour always seems to fracture into groups like this but this year the spread was almost instant.  My friend Allen and I found ourselves out front with a couple of guys on Arctic Cats who later broke away from us when we stopped to do some helmet venting adjustments.  Although the trail lacked a ton of snow it was incredibly smooth and enjoyable to ride.  We reached the gravel pit where we assumed we would meet up with the Fish Lake crew but were surprised that they weren’t there yet.  We did however meet the Martin Rd Lot guys who had left just ahead of us and had now joined with the two Arctic Cats.  As the Martin Lot group waited for some of their friends from the main pack, Allen and I headed out to the Pequaywan trail, which, true to form so far this year, was phenomenal.  From our first ride of the season the Pequaywan trail has been in amazing condition and the Pequaywan Area Trail Blazers snowmobile club has done what I would say is one of the finest grooming and maintenance jobs of a trail I have seen in recent memory.  On one hand I may regret saying this by inadvertently sending hordes of riders up the Pequaywan trail after reading this but if you ride the North Shore Trail and haven’t been up the Pequaywan you are definitely missing out on some great trail conditions.  Somewhere along the Pequaywan trail I looked in my left side mirror to see who was behind me only to find that it had fallen off somewhere along the ttrail.  It had been loose since earlier in the season when I clipped a snow laden branch with it while ditch banging and now it decided to just fall off.  I have to be honest, I never liked the hood mounted mirrors on the 2015 Polaris Indy anyway- you could never seem to get them into an agreeable position and the way they were situated in relation to the handlebars you always needed to move your hands to see anything and even then, they never wanted to stay in the same place.  (Mini Rant here:  I have a 1999 and a 2000 Polaris in my garage and the mirrors on those older sleds are 10 times better, stronger, more stable and more adjustable than the hood mounted mirrors on my 2015- Come on Polaris- you can do better- heck, go back to your old mirror set up- it is better than the junk set up you have now.  Rant Over.)

                We soon arrived at the Pequaywan Inn and were given a warm welcome by the staff and one big wet hairy smelly Yeti who was busy taking his usual photo ops with a slew of admirers.  The rest of the group quickly filled the bar and we found ourselves joined by the Billy’s group and finally the missing Fish Lake group who had gotten a late start.  It is here that we found out that not long after our departure our videographer Ron Alvar blew the driveshaft

Yeti Tour sleds gathered outside the Pequaywan Inn

Yeti Tour sleds gathered outside the Pequaywan Inn

on his trusty old ‘98 Polaris two up.  That and top fund raiser Joe Addy had also had an early breakdown, along with one member of the Fish Lake group whose bogey wheel actually made it farther into the Yeti Tour than his sled did.  It turns out that as the Fish lake group was leaving one of the riders hopped off his sled and went running down the lake chasing his bogey wheel that had come off when a rear axle bolt snapped on his sled, instantly ending his day.  Luckily these  turned out to be 3 of the four casualties of the day and they occurred so early in the ride that our trailing support vehicle had very little to do the rest of the day. 

                After eating our fill of Burgers and Fries Allen and I teamed up with Nate Alvar (The events founder) and Yeti Veterans James and Jess Carr and we blazed out onto the Brimson trail heading toward Hugo’s, the next checkpoint and the halfway point on the normally 140-mile Yeti Tour Route.  At Hugo’s we filled up with gas and met up with Steve Brandt from the Voyageur’s snowmobile club out of Two Harbors who had come from our next check point, the John A. Brandt Memorial Shelter, where he had started in indoor fire, so riders could go warm themselves while taking a break. 


Snowmobiles outside of Hugo's

Snowmobiles outside of Hugo’s

James and Jess decided to stay and hang out with another group of riders at Hugo’s but Allen, Nate and myself were anxious to head out to the Yukon Trail, visit the shelter and then do a little extra riding up the Yukon before heading back toward Duluth.  That is another wonderful thing about the Yeti Tour- the ability to detour a little bit on the many trails that intersect with the Yeti route, and that is exactly what we did- ride up the Yukon which as Steve had told us, was fantastic riding.  From there we cut over on the Bear Pit Trail back down to the NSST and back to Duluth, surprised that the trails were still in good shape, but there was so much dirt poking through that at times it seemed more like you were four wheeling rather than snowmobiling.  We got back to the Sunset at a nice tidy 3:30- plenty of time to run home, clean up, and get back to the Sunset by 6:00 for the banquet where we had pizza, handed out door prizes, participated in the Yeti Tour basket raffle (which was a new addition last year and a huge hit again this year) and then the crowning moment of the night where one lucky person won a brand new 2017 Arctic Cat ZR 4000 snowmobile courtesy of the Yeti Tour’s Presenting Sponsor RJ Sport and Cycle in Duluth.

As I left the Sunset pleased with another successful Yeti Tour I laughed to myself as it started to snow- missing the ride by just a few hours.  Over the next seven days the Yeti Tour route received a whopping 22 inches of snow.  How will the weather be for Yeti Tour 2019?  Go to this fall and sign up to ride and find out for yourself!



1ab2First a quick trail update- The GIA trails around Duluth are experiencing heavy traffic and have deteriorated rapidly.  The North Shore Trail was fantastic BUT- with the recent snow there is a huge amount of sleds out there and there is a substantial amount of ice under the snow making the corners a little tricky.  Taking a right hand corner on the trail today I hit ice underneath and slid out wide left and almost tagged somebody coming the other way- my apologies to that guy whoever he is.  With all the traffic and trickiness I would suggest keeping your speeds down especially in those corners- after waiting so long to get snow you’d hate to wreck your sled!  Here are a couple of shots from today- first Pat & Michelle Meyer and Brian and Wendy Hager all the way up from Mankato out on the Reservoir Lakes trail at the new shelter and a shot of the overflowing Martin Rd lot which hasn’t seen this many trailers for a couple of seasons.  The next big storm is scheduled to hit the North Shore tonight so there will be plenty of snow out there!1ab1


1aq1Snow, snow and more snow! Yes after 3 years of waiting we actually have a respectable amount of the white stuff.  As a result all trails in Northeast Minnesota are open and in good condition.  On top of that there is more snow falling right now and more on the way this weekend.  Take advantage of it because spring is just around the corner.  Also be careful in the corners, there is a little bit of ice under the snow and it doesn’t take long for wannabe racers to wash those corners down to ice.