Snowmobile alliances anticipate riders to hit the trails despite frigid temperatures
JANESVILLE — The snow and cold that have settled in could be seen as a blessing in disguise, at least for snowmobilers.
Riders from across the state are taking to the trails in Rock and Walworth counties because of the snow that has accumulated and the temperatures that are making it stick.
"I heard people from as far as Tomahawk were coming to Rock County," Levi Olson said. "People are coming from a good distance away."
Olson, the trail boss for the Rock County Alliance of Snowmobile Clubs, isn't the only one who has noticed an influx of riders.
“This season has been great,” veteran snowmobiler Mike Cerny said. “The best season we have had in years.”
The 236 miles of state-funded trails in Walworth County opened the weekend before Christmas.
It is the second time in about 20 years the trails opened before the holidays, said Cerny, the grooming coordinator for the Walworth County Snowmobile Alliance.
Rock County's 226 miles of state-funded trails opened Dec. 21 and have seen a decent turnout because of the increasing amount of snow and low temperatures.
Trails in several counties north of Rock and Walworth counties are closed because of a lack of snow. Dodge County's trails are open, but they are listed as "poor" on TravelWisconsin.com. Milwaukee County's trails are listed as "fair," just like those in Rock and Walworth.
Olson believes many snowmobilers from across the state visited trails in the two counties this past weekend.
"We go where the snow is at," Olson said.
Cerny guessed that some people stayed away because of the bitter cold, “but there are absolute diehards” that will always be out.
According to the Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin, the birthplace of snowmobiling, has more than 200,000 registered snowmobiles and 25,000 miles of groomed trails.
Volunteers from local snowmobile clubs that are part of their county alliance groom the trails several times a week. Shifts can be as long as 15 hours, Cerny said. There are eight clubs in the Rock County alliance and 14 in the Walworth County alliance.
Rock County has three pieces of grooming equipment with two to four volunteers per groomer. Walworth County has four groomers and about 25 volunteers total.
Trail maintenance is paid for through a Department of Natural Resources grant that is funded by snowmobile registration fees.
Rock County's grant is worth about $57,000. Walworth County's grant is about $59,000.