Snowmobile season delayed by lack of snow
By SAM EGGLESTON, Journal Ishpeming Bureau
MARQUETTE — With fresh snow blanketing the Upper Peninsula from the weekend, many snowmobile enthusiasts are eager to hit the trail and get their sleds back in action. After waiting all summer, snowmobilers have been getting their machines prepped for the upcoming season.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, however, just needs them to wait a little longer. “The trails aren’t open yet,” said Ron Yesney, a recreation management specialist out of the DNR’s Marquette office. “We typically look for 10 inches of fresh snow or six inches of settled snow before the grooming starts and the trails are open.”Even with the recent snowfall, which looks heavy in some areas, Yesney said it isn’t nearly enough. Six inches of snow, he said, settles to about three inches — about half of what is needed as a base to begin grooming.
However, the lack of snow hasn’t stopped Yesney’s phone from ringing off the hook. Yesney said questions this time of year range from how old snowmobile operators have to be to legally hit the trails to if a valid driver’s license is needed to operate a sled. Yesney said riders have to be 17 years old and have a valid driver’s license to legally operate a snowmobile on their own. For youths from 12 to 16 years old, they must be accompanied by an adult and have passed a snowmobile safety course.
People, he said, are generally revved up for the season come Dec. 1, which is the traditional “official” start to snowmobiling. That is when the contracts the DNR has with local snowmobile clubs for grooming trails begins. The contracts run through March 31. Until the snow continues to accumulate, however, Yesney warned snowmobilers should keep their machines away from the trails.
“All they’re going to do is tear up their machines and injure themselves if they go out too early,” he said. “Once there’s enough snow we’ll start grooming the trails and then they can go out. There’s plenty of time.”And there are plenty of snowmobilers, too. Yesney said last year, the Bill Nichols Snowmobile Trail through the Keweenaw Peninsula — which
Yesney said is the most popular U.P. trail — hosted about 55,000 riders. “That really surprised us,” he said. “We figured with gas prices being up the way they were, snowmobiling would really suffer. It didn’t. We saw record numbers last year.“This year, we’re expecting another good season.”
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