Snowmobiling: Snowmobile clubs - Show 3

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Podcasts
Snowmobiling: Snowmobile clubs - Show 3 .mp3 (908 Kb) - 1/4/08

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Steve Carroll:

Hi everyone, I'm Steve Carroll and welcome to the DNR's podcast on snowmobiling in Minnesota.

We have tremendous snowmobiling opportunities throughout our state with about 20,000 miles of interconnected groomed trails provided by 195 snowmobile clubs and communities from Pipestone to Ely.

Today we are talking about snowmobile clubs and our guest is Les Ollila. He's a regional manager in northeastern Minnesota for the DNR's Trails and Waterways Division.

Welcome, Les.

Les Ollila:

Hi, Steve.

SC:

Let's talk about snowmobile clubs and the role they play in snowmobiling here in our state.

LO:

Well, snowmobile clubs began our snowmobile system in Minnesota. When snowmobiles were invented and families started buying them they started going, riding from neighbor to neighbor, from town to town, and forming clubs, getting groups together because when snowmobiling started machines weren't that dependable. You kind of wanted to go with somebody else. It was a safety thing and then it became fun to go as a group. So clubs formed socially and then they formed to provide trails for places to go. And clubs are how most of the trails get built in Minnesota.

SC:

Very important to snowmobiling in our state.

LO:

Very important. They provide most of the 20,000 miles that we have in the state. We have grants that go to the clubs and the clubs do all the work. They acquire the land, they acquire the equipment, they do all the work of building trails, building bridges, and grooming the trails, which is a real expensive process itself. The money they get is the money that they produce themselves. The money that goes in the snowmobile program is a dedicated account. Their license fees, you know, there's a three-year snowmobile license, the trail permit that was enacted – this might be our third year, second or third year of that – goes directly into the trail account, into their trail program, and a portion of the un-refunded gas tax that's apportioned by what is not used on the highway to what we estimate what snowmobiles use, so it's not money that's spent on the highway. So it's the gas taxes, their registrations, and their trail passes all go to pay for the clubs' work and it's a match grant. The clubs don't get 100% paid. When they're building trail, they get 65% of the cost of building, doing that project and then they have to make up the other 35% either through other donations, through raffles, through any other community event or club event they can have. And then they do a lot of in-kind work that goes towards that. The volunteers are really the heart of the program. That's what keeps it going.

SC:

And it's not just like a commitment when the snow flies. It's a year-round deal.

LO:

Oh no, no it's not just when the snow lands. We've got all this getting ready, getting your permits ready, getting your equipment ready, dealing with the landowners. This is a year-round job. It might've started out as a hobby, but it's pretty much a job like any organization. It takes a lot of workers.

SC:

And you said it's kind of the heart and soul of the snowmobiling program.

LO:

It really is, it really is. Without the snowmobile clubs in Minnesota we wouldn't have a program. And snowmobilers really would benefit if they joined a club. Not only do they get to understand the system, but the safety programs, a lot of our snowmobile safety programs and youth programs, are run through snowmobile clubs. A lot of the information on where to ride and where the surfaces are, the clubs coordinate a lot of that stuff.

Of course it's a family event and they just love to have families and kids out and they have a lot of family weekends. And that's a way for snowmobilers to get involved in their community and with their club and support their sport, because all the snowmobilers I know are very proud to know that they pay their own way.

SC:

And they also contribute information to the DNR's website on the trail conditions.

LO:

They do, they do. They provide their contacts on our website for trail information, the mapping, they do a lot of the work on the mapping. They do a lot of services for us.

SC:

I know the trail conditions page on the DNR website – very busy during the winter months.

LO:

It is, it is and I'm not sure how many sites we have, but there's got to be a couple hundred sites on that website.

SC:

Do you have an idea of how many snowmobile clubs there are throughout the state?

LO:

We've got somewhere just under 200 clubs that are actually grant clubs. And then there's other clubs beside that are riding clubs that are out supporting these trail clubs. So there's more than 200. And Minnesota has a large association that represents most of the snowmobile clubs in Minnesota and that's called Minnesota United Snowmobiler's Association. They're a very strong group that helps with the legislation, helps organize information. It's a great resource for a snowmobiler.

SC:

And how would someone go about getting involved in one of these clubs?

LO:

The snowmobile dealers. If you don't know how to get a hold of a snowmobile club you can always go to our website and get onto our maps and our maps are big quadrant maps. There's four that cover the entire state. Part of that map, and it's on our website, is contact page and there's a contact number for every snowmobile club in the state. So you can go through the dealers, you can go through our website for that contact page, or you can go MnUSA, and they're a great resource.

SC:

And snowmobiling is big business not only in northern Minnesota, but really throughout the entire state.

LO:

It is. It's one of the reasons that resorts can stay open in the winter.

SC:

Sure, and like I said there are riding opportunities, different riding opportunities, in northern Minnesota and in southern Minnesota.

LO:

Well, you can ride from nearly every community in Minnesota anywhere. And southeastern Minnesota is interesting with its bluffs and valleys, and western Minnesota has some big expanses and some great country to see and river valleys. Of course central Minnesota with lakes and pines and northern Minnesota with more lakes and pines and we also have mines too. So there's a lot of interesting scenery in Minnesota.

SC:

Right, and it's a tremendous family activity.

LO:

It's great. It's great to be out with the kids and the whole family and maybe go to a bonfire or go to a club building or just going from restaurant from your motel, or just traveling around the country and it's a way to get out with the whole family.

SC:

And I can't believe how much the equipment has changed throughout the years.

LO:

Oh, it's wonderful. Our equipment now is so dependable, and easy to use, and quiet, and nice to ride. It's really, it's very enjoyable and warm.

SC:

Sure.

LO:

Our equipment and our clothing is so much better than it used to be. So it's a very comfortable sport. Even though it might be twenty below outside you can still go.

SC:

And that makes it easier to bring the kids along.

LO:

Sure, they can be comfortable.

SC:

Very good information again. I want to thank you for listening. That's all the time we have today.

I want to thank our guest, Les Ollila. He's the regional manager for the DNR Trail and Waterways Division out of Grand Rapids.

For more information visit the DNR's website at www.mndnr.gov.

I'm Steve Carroll for the Minnesota DNR.