Snowmobiling back in vogue in North DakotaThe past few winters have been a boon to the North Dakota snowmobile industry.
The past few winters have been a boon to the North Dakota snowmobile industry.
“We’ve definitely been blessed with snow again,” Snowmobile North Dakota Program Manager Kari Wanner said.
The question is if the recent snowy winters can save the sport in the western part of the state.
Up until 2007, there were trails in the Dickinson and Williston areas, but a lack of volunteers led Snowmobile North Dakota to discontinue those trails.
“The volunteer efforts and the numbers were lacking,” Wanner said. “They decided to close that section of trail.”
There are currently 14 trail systems in North Dakota, comprising 2,853 miles of trail.
Most trails are closed now, with the Cattail Trail in Steele County and the East Trails of Sno-Trails in McHenry County currently open as of the last update posted Dec. 16 on snowmobilend.org.
Several trails are near opening.
Statewide, Wanner said snowmobile registrations are up 5 percent in the 2009-10 biennium compared to the 2007-08 biennium.
“It’s great and we’re hoping to continue that trend until we close out the season,” Wanner said.
Snowmobile North Dakota is the umbrella organization of 43 local snowmobile clubs.
“Without the volunteer efforts across the state, this program would cease to exist,” Wanner said.
Wanner said out of about 2,500 members of local snowmobile clubs in North Dakota, anywhere from 100-200 people volunteer on the trails.
“We figured each club puts in about 700 hours to maintain the trails, which is a phenomenal amount,” Wanner said.
With several dry winters, coupled with increasing fuel costs, it hurt the state snowmobile trails system on two ends.
The increased fuel prices meant more money was spent on grooming trails. Dry winters led to decreased snowmobile registrations, which cuts down on Snowmobile North Dakota’s funding.
“Now we’ve had a 5 percent increase, it’s been good for us,” Wanner said. “On the other hand, we’re still trying to make up for other years and we’re a little leery of adding trail, not knowing what the future in 10 years could bring.”