Snowmobile trails open Tuesday

Published 6:28 am Monday, December 14, 2009

The heavy snowfall this week is a welcome sight to many area snowmobilers, as snowmobile trails are set to officially open Tuesday.

Tom Clark, a member of the Spamtown Snow Drifters Club, is the trail boss of Mower County. He’s been out marking and preparing the trails for the last few weeks. Clark said people marked the trails late this year because of the late harvest, but the trails will be ready for the opening.

About 190 miles of trails crisscross Mower County and connect to trails in neighboring counties and Iowa.

Email newsletter signup

“You can pretty much go anywhere if the snow is there,” Clark said.

Mark White, park manager of Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park and Lake Louise State Park, commended the multiple clubs around southern Minnesota for all the work they do to operate the trails.

“You can start out your way and ride all the way to the Mississippi on these trails,” White said.

Even numbered trails run east to west, and odd numbered trails run north to south. Clark said the trails are good for area towns because they connect communities.

“Whenever we have snow, you won’t believe the amount of business these small towns have,” Clark said.

Despite the heavy snow, most areas have too little snow for groomers to be used on the trails. Groomers require about 12 inches of snow, Clark said.

Once enough snow falls, smoothing the trails is a lengthy process. A new John Deere tractor will be used to groom the tracks once enough snow is on the ground. A farmer has been hired to use his tractor, and a county vehicle is rented to groom the tracks.

Another difficulty in maintaining the trails each year is securing permission from landowners, as many don’t like snowmobiles on their property.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher all the time,” Clark said.

Clark said he can understand why many people don’t want snowmobiles on their property, but he said local groups dedicate a lot of time and effort to keep the trails open.

The trails aren’t completed yet, as Clark and other workers still need to build bridges over about 20 water crossings in the county. The bridges are made of snow packed and piled over the waterways. Clark said most snowmobilers don’t even realize they’re crossing a bridge.

The trails are funded by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources with money from snowmobile registration, the gas tax and trail passes. The money is paid to local clubs for each mile they maintain.

An annual trail sticker is required, and it costs $16, or a three year sticker is available for $31. The stickers are valid from Nov. 1 through April 30.