REGIONAL— About four inches of fresh snow late last week significantly improved conditions on area snowmobile trails, and snowmobilers responded over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend to hit the trails in significant numbers.
With about 12-16 inches of snow on the ground in most of the region now, most trails are in reasonable shape, according to riders.
“The club trails have been really nice,” said Jeff Carlson, owner of Harold’s Arctic Cat near Tower, who’s a frequent rider as well. “We can always use more snow, but there is enough to groom.”
Gary Skogman, who grooms for the Lake Vermilion Penguins snowmobile club, said most of the spur trails his club maintains are now in “decent shape,” although their grooming efforts had a setback due to mechanical problems with one of the club’s two groomers.
Lake trails across the region are mostly all staked now and are seeing traffic after the slow start to the season due to the warm December.
Meanwhile, some of the trail system’s main arteries, managed by the Department of Natural Resources, are still experiencing problems. While the Taconite Trail is groomed, the DNR is listing it as fair to poor, while a portion of the trail about five miles east of Hwy. 53 remains blocked due to flooding and open water, apparently as a result of a beaver dam. At midweek, the Arrowhead Trail, one of the region’s main north to south arteries, was still un-groomed.
Officials with the DNR’s Tower Area trails office said DNR crews were working on the Arrowhead north of Elephant Lake, as of Wednesday, and were hoping to have the majority of the trail groomed by the weekend. Yet the crews were encountering limited snow in some locations and were still finding too little ice in some swamps. The recent cold snap, with temperatures running minus 25-30 degrees around the area, helped freeze most area swamps, but the high water going into the fall combined with a very mild December, are contributing to a much slower than usual freeze-up in many wetland areas. “We’re trying,” said trails office manager Joan Broten. “But there’s not much to work with in some cases.”