Sounds pretty simple, but seriously, join a snowmobile club. I am fairly confident that if you are enough of a snowmobile enthusiast to be reading this techie magazine that you are also responsible enough to already be a member of at least one snowmobile club. If not, shame on you!
Notice I said “at least one snowmobile club”. That’s right. The reasons are many to belong to more than one snowmobile club. The reasons are many to belong to a state or provincial association as well. First and foremost is we need bodies, physical labor, to do the manual work that MUST be done to have a trail system, period. The people who are doing this right now are an aging group and they desperately need help in many areas. On one hand, the logic is retired people have so much time on their hands that they are the ones who have the time and resources to be able to do the work, but on the other hand they are the ones getting older and physically able to less and less with each passing year, and they are on a fixed income so why should they bear the load of doing the work involved with bringing snowmobilers to town?
Some snowmobilers have the idea that since they pay their registration fees and buy trail permits and purchase gas that pays gas tax revenues back to the states and clubs that this alone should be enough of a contribution, that this is their “fair share”. Maybe in the past with many more trail permits sold it might have been enough to cover the financial end of things, but these days it just isn’t enough anymore. Just to cover the expenses, the cost of trail permits keeps going up, with more and more states getting into charging for trail access. That is just the money end of things. Clubs need your financial contributions just to pay the bills. Yes, paying the membership dues to join the club does help, but can you imagine what a difference it would make if each one of the club members were to offer $100 each? Think about it. Do you get $100 of enjoyment out of the trail you most often ride? I sure as hell do!
The cost of a trail permit is now being reduced to those who are a club member. For the first time ever, ALL snowmobiles in Wisconsin, residents and non-residents, will need to display a trail permit to be able to ride the public trails. The cost of a Trail Pass is $30 (per sled) for those who are not members of a snowmobile club, while the cost is only $10 (per sled) for those who do belong to a Wisconsin snowmobile club. Michigan is also considering a similar structure where trail permits would cost $25 less to club members. New York, Vermont and New Hampshire now all have similar discounts for trail permits to members of their state associations. This is all an effort to strengthen both the organized clubs and state associations, which in turn strengthens our bargaining power at state legislatures and when it comes time to get funding reimbursements of registration fees, gas taxes paid and grant monies. Our strength is in our numbers.
So I ask you, how many snowmobile clubs do you belong to? You don’t have to live where the club is. Personally I belong to ten of them between Minnesota and the U.P. of Michigan, and each year I send each one of them (at least) $100. That’s me, personally, and considering how many miles I ride each winter, it is still a bargain. I love snowmobiling. I want each and every one of the clubs that maintain the trails where I ride to be successful.
Each one of us has a unique situation, but all of us can give in some way, shape or form. Whether you donate your time and labor or write a check, we need each and every one of you to step up to the plate. Again, by virtue of reading this you are likely savvy to this and I am preaching to the choir. Which means we all have to be ambassadors and recruit new members. Think of all the people you ride with. Do they all belong to a club? Do you know the answer? We need to ask. We need to convince them to join the party. We need their help, physical or financial. It is a matter of civic responsibility, moral pride and flat-out feeling good about going out on trails that YOU helped create and maintain!
Snowmobilers as a user group are an aging demographic overall, but in the last few years we have started to track a resurgence of younger riders getting into the sport. I have long argued these “new” riders have actually been involved in the sport all along, but are now just showing up on the radar as they are aging and becoming more responsible, with more disposable income to go out and buy their own brand new sled instead of buying used sleds or riding a hand-me-down from a family member. Once they buy a new sled and have a vested interest they are more apt to want to ensure having a safe place to ride.
Creating a snowmobile trail times time, money and effort. Typically it is through the hard work of a team of volunteers that get it done. Clearing brush, building bridges, driving posts, working with land owners, public or private, there is a ton of work to do each and every year well ahead of the first snowfall. Some years in some locations the groomers might not even make it out for a single pass, but the prep work still need to be done, each year. If you get a foot of snow and head out to the trail, what will you do if that work has not been done? Where will you ride? How safe would it be?
I still remember what it was like to go snowmobiling before designated trails existed. I hit my share of culverts, tree stumps, ice chunks, and wrecked a good number of sleds. Not exactly the fondest of memories. Providing a safe and legal place to ride is far easier when the burden to do so is spread out across a much larger number of participants. Please do what you can, please bring as many of your fellow riders as you can into the flock. Join a club. All are welcome!
From the September 2015 issue of SnowTech (Printed Aug 2015).