Let's start with a confession; I don’t own a snowmobile, but I usually get out one or two times a year with friends and co-workers. So why am I writing an article about snowmobiling in Wisconsin? Well a few years ago, I worked on an episode of Discover Wisconsin and in turn, I learned a lot about this extremely popular sport. Honestly, with the winters we were having back then, I think some were beginning to trade in their track and skis for a four-wheeled alternative (which, in this writer’s opinion, is also fun!). But with last year’s polar vortex and a decent start to the white stuff this year, I’m guessing snowmobiling’s popularity will once again be at an all-time high.
Even if you’re not an avid snowmobiler, I think you’ll be amazed by these nine facts and figures:
1.) 18,855 - The number of miles of funded snowmobile trails in Wisconsin. That would be like driving from Green Bay to Los Angeles and back to Green Bay almost 12 times! Every mile of trail is groomed by local clubs, making your ride as comfortable and safe as possible.
2.) 70% - The percentage of trail on private property. As trails wind through the entire state, keep in mind that odds are you’re on private property. These land owners granted permission for trails to pass through their property. So, while a “thank you” would be great, owners (and riders alike) simply appreciate it when you respect the property by staying on marked trails.
3.) 598 - The number of snowmobile clubs in Wisconsin. Clubs are the driving force behind snowmobiling in Wisconsin. Clubs manage and maintain virtually every mile of trail in the state. Most club members are volunteers, meaning they’re donating their time when they’re negotiating with land owners for trail permission, marking trails with signs, clearing debris along the trail before the snow falls or grooming the trails. Clubs also purchase the equipment to maintain the trails. Long story short: No clubs…no snowmobiling in Wisconsin.
4.) 232,902 - The number of registered snowmobiles in Wisconsin last winter. Even in homes with multiple sleds, that’s a lot of individuals and families who really enjoy riding in winter.
5.) 33% - The average percentage of funding that comes from club memberships and fundraisers. While registration fees and a small percentage of the gas tax helps fund snowmobiling from the state, clubs provide a significant amount of dollars (in addition to their time) to make snowmobiling what it is in the state.
6.) 1924 - The birth year of the snowmobile. Yep, the snowmobile has been around for a while! But did you also know, it was born in Sayner, Wis.? Don’t believe me? On your next Northwoods adventure, stop in at the Vilas County Historical Society Museum in Sayner to see Carl Eliason’s original “motor toboggan”. And just down the road, more history is on display at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Germain.
7.) 52 - Well Alex, the answer (or question) for this one is “What is the number of years the World Championship of Snowmobiling has been in Eagle River?”. It's true: For over a half-century, riders and spectators from all over the world have competed to see who’s the best rider on snow (or ice).
8.) $125.90 to $2,000 - The range of fines for not following snowmobile rules. You may think that the sport of snowmobiling is unregulated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Keep up on the laws, rules and regulations by first reading the DNR’s Snowmobile Laws handbook.
9.) 7/1/2015 - The date when snowmobile registration changes from $30 for two years to $30 for three years. And starting in the winter of 2015/2016, all snowmobiler will have to have an annual trail pass to ride Wisconsin trails. The cost for the annual pass will be $30 unless you belong to a snowmobile club - then your trail pass will cost $10.
So whether you’re an avid rider or an occasional recreationalist, keep in mind that while you’re having a blast on the trails, others have put in even more time to make the trails safe, ridable and fun. Even if you don’t have the time to volunteer, I’d encourage you to join a club – it’s a small token of appreciation and will go a long way in helping keep this sport viable for years to come. And hey, you could be part of a cool named club – like the Knight Riders, Sno-Fleas or Moonlighters.
Show some pride and list your club below!
Chad Diedrick is the managing producer for the nation’s longest-running tourism TV show, Discover Wisconsin. In his 12+ years of discovering Wisconsin, Chad has seen virtually every corner of the state. Between filming breaks, you’re likely to catch Chad trying his hand at a round of disc golf at a local course. (His goal is to hit every disc golf course in Wisconsin!) Watch Discover Wisconsin Saturdays at 10 a.m. on FSN Wisconsin’s outdoor block.