B y Jamie Norton

A year ago, snowmobilers in the area had all the snow on the ground they could ask for. With a huge storm seemingly twice a week last winter, conditions were perfect for a wildly successful snowmobile season, and although local clubs were busy constantly maintaining and grooming miles and miles of trails, they couldn’t have been happier.

This year, not so much.

“(It’s) the opposite,” said Dan Daigle, president of the Border Riders Snowmobile Club in Granville. “It sucks for sure. I’ve seen (poor winters) before, though. But we used to be able to at least ride somewhere. But now it’s hard to ride anywhere close by.”

“It’s very bad this year,” said Ernie DeMatties, publicist for the Poultney (Vt.) Snowmobile Devils. “Last year was a good year, we had a lot of snow. (This year) we have actually had no snowmobiling in the Poultney area. It’s quite frustrating.”

Snowmobile trails remained closed through the beginning of the week, and despite getting a few inches of snow on the ground here and there, Daigle said it might be too late to salvage any kind of a snowmobile season at this point, anyway.

“Unfortunately, we’re running out of time, because once March hits, it’s no good,” he said. “You could get two feet and the next day it’s gone. We’ve kind of chalked it up to (accept that) it’s pretty much over.”

DeMatties agreed.

“We’ve lost all our base with all the rain and everything,” he said. “It doesn’t look good now… even if we get a snowstorm, with no base at all, there’s not much you can do.”

In order to open the trails, Daigle said they would need about 10 to 12 inches of snow on the ground. That’s certainly still possible with what’s left of this winter, but then the temperatures would need to stay cold enough to keep the snow around.

“Ideally, we look for at least a foot of snow before we really like to open them,” Daigle said. “Otherwise, people start hitting stuff – rocks and you name it. The base protects the owner’s property, too, from getting right down to mud.”

Daigle said getting six to eight inches of wet snow on the ground early in the season that freezes to establish the “base,” followed by another three to four inches of light stuff on top, develops the best conditions for snowmobiling. But since it is a bit too late in the game to expect that, the Border Riders are looking for any kind of significant snowfall, as long as it sticks around.

If, for example, a foot of snow falls, “We’ll open them instantly,” Daigle said. “We’ll let people pack it in, and then we’ll go out grooming after that.”

In the meantime, Daigle, Border Riders vice president Chris Rathbun and other club members still have to keep the club running. While expenses aren’t as high since there isn’t as much trail grooming going on – which costs gas and vehicle wear-and-tear – the club still has bills to pay.

“It’s an incorporation, and business-wise, we have to keep spending money and doing the same work – besides grooming,” Daigle said. “But that does affect our funding for the next year.”

And, of course, as a proverbial double-edged sword, the lack of snow has also hindered the club’s ability to hold any fundraisers or events to trowel for new members.

“It definitely gets morale down,” Daigle said. “We’ve had some fundraiser rides that was dependent on the snow, but it doesn’t look good … We have stuff in limbo, but I just don’t see it happening.”

Same with the Snowmobile Devils. They had a successful pancake breakfast fundraiser recently, but any rides or events planned – including the Devils’ popular winter carnival scheduled for March 5 – are in jeopardy.

“Unless we get a lot of snow and cold weather, I doubt it will happen,” DeMatties said of the carnival, which drew about 300 people last year. “It’s been a real bummer year for snowmobiling.”

Individual membership for the Border Riders costs $25, and a family membership costs $30 a year. The club has around 100 members. Anyone who would like to join the Border Riders Snowmobile Club, or who would just like more information, can learn more at granvilleborderriders.com.

Adult membership for the Poultney Snowmobile Devils is $20, or just $1 for junior members (16 or under). For more information on that club, visit https://poultneysnodevils.wordpress.com.

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