B y Jaime Thomas
The ground is frozen, snow has started to pack and snowmobilers are raring to go.
Snowmobile season is beginning to pick up speed as snow came to the area during the past week, falling on ground that was cold enough to set.
Local associations are hoping for more of the white stuff so they can keep their trails open for more than a few days. And after two consecutive years of mild, snow-less winters, riders are ready to get outside.
“When we got the snow a few weeks ago, the sleds were out before the flakes hit the ground,” said Mike Irwin, president of the Hartford Ridge Riders. He said the club’s equipment is ready to roll, and members have spent all year preparing the trails.
“We’re busy all year round. That’s all in the 365 days of snowmobiling; it’s not just when the snow is on the ground.”
The club replaced three bridges, installed four new culverts and rerouted some trails among other projects. Additionally, members had to get permission for use from several new landowners.
“It really helps if the prior landowner talks to the new landowner,” Irwin said, adding that most of the time there is no problem.
“We do what we say we’re going to do; we keep the trails safe and treat it like it’s our own living room.”
The situation is similar in Granville, where the Border Riders have also been working on their grounds throughout the year.
“We’ve been steadily improving the trails. We just go a little bit of snow, which helps, but we need more,” said Club President Dan Daigle. He said the club rebuilt the trail going to Whitehall, among other projects.
Local clubs have had to take on more responsibility as less trail fund money arrives.
“The less money in the pie, the less to dispense,” Irwin said. “More and more is being put on the clubs to keep the trails safe.”
He said membership is currently at 80 to 85 members, which is normal for this time of year. If there is enough snow, he expects that number to go up to 170 to 200 members.
In Granville, Daigle said his club also suffers when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
“Obviously it hurts us when there’s no snow,” he said, explaining that many members wait for the white stuff to sign up for the club. “With numbers down, funding goes down.”
Daigle said he looks for at a good January and February of riding, and anything more than that is a bonus.
“We need snow, we need a steady supply of it,” he said.