Snowmobilers anxiously await the first snowflakes of the
year. They appreciate the natural beauty of North America's winter season. They
brave the cold with some help from the latest innovations in clothing and
equipment. They spend time with their families and friends, traveling to
resorts, restaurants and festivals. They ride local groomed trails and follow
the network of trails that take them state to state or province to province,
even across international boundaries. But, what many people may not realize is
that snowmobilers pay their own way.
The thousands of miles of snowmobile trails across North America's snow
country are built by snowmobilers for snowmobilers. Each state and province has
its own method of funding the trail system; in each instance, the snowmobiler
pays to keep the program going. Snowmobilers contribute to the trail system
through trail permits, gasoline taxes and annual registration fees. Although
state and provincial grants awarded to snowmobile clubs may help defray some
costs, a large portion of the trail-building costs are paid for by snowmobilers
through their clubs.
Club volunteers involve themselves in every stage of the trail-building
process. In most cases, trails are constructed on privately owned land. Clubs
obtain permission from landowners to create trails on their property, and then
work with the landowner in the planning and design of the trail. Dave Smith of
the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobilers, comments, "Although it is not always
easy, landowners are often cooperative with the snowmobile clubs, and are
sometimes snowmobilers themselves."
Clubs apply for state/provincial or federal grants to help with the costs of
trail building and maintenance. According to Greg Sorenson, president of the
Minnesota United Snowmobilers, the state DNR determines which clubs receive
funds and the amount of each grant. "The decision is based on many factors,
including the region in which the trail will be built, and the design of the
trail." The clubs raise money to pay for the remaining costs of building trails
through various fund-raising activities, including raffles, snowmobiling events
and races, winter festivals and summer picnics.
The trails are literally built by the clubs. Snowmobile clubs provide
volunteer workers to do the labor involved in creating the trail. Members of the
clubs offer their time to trail building, maintenance and grooming, using
equipment to level snow and clear debris. Equipment may be rented and additional
workers are hired if needed, but as a rule, most work is done by the club
Clubs work together to connect their trail to others, creating a snowmobile
trail network that is as good as any highway system for both winter tourists and
local residents to use. These club members enjoy the winter fun and camaraderie
offered by the sport of snowmobiling, but just as importantly, they know the
value of paying their own way.