December 13, 2010
Clubs ready trails for riders
County has more miles per snowmobiler than anywhere in state
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Twin Bridges Snowmobile Club officers Steve Furlin, left, and Clare Heider demonstrate the layout of signs placed along snowmobile trails in Cortland County to help direct riders. The snowmobile season begins Wednesday.
For snowmobile enthusiasts like Clare Heider, December means the start of a special time of year.
Heider has been busy helping to prepare trails as Dec. 22 draws near and snowmobile season begins in New York state.
Heider and fellow snowmobile enthusiast Steve Furlin left her log cabin in Solon on Saturday morning to set up trail markers.
Heider is membership coordinator and Furlin is trail coordinator for Twin Bridges snowmobile club, which operates about 37 miles of trails in the McGraw and Solon area.
Operating a Chevrolet Blazer, equipped with a plow and treads to maneuver the snow, Furlin set up markers and checked the condition of the trails.
Snowmobile season starts Dec. 22, the day after bow hunting and muzzle-loader deer season ends.
The season may run through mid-March, or as conditions permit.
Cortland County has more miles of trail per registered snowmobile than any other area in the state, said Rick Burt, trail coordinator for Seven Valley Snow Goers, a snowmobile club that has about 75 miles of trails on the west side of the county.
“There are 350 miles of trails in Cortland County and 2,200 snowmobiles registered here. You can see 10 snowmobiles a day, whereas if you go to Tug Hill or Old Forge there’s bumper to bumper traffic on weekends,” Burt said.
Burt is also Cortland County director for the New York State Snowmobile Association.
At least 6 inches of snow cover is needed for a snowmobile to maneuver a trail safely and without digging up the earth below.
Trail markers indicate when to stop, signal the presence of obstructions and clearly show that the snowmobiler is on the C-5 state corridor trail system, a network of 11,500 miles of trails throughout the state. Trails run through private property, so the clubs must get permission from landowners to use their land.
The most common concern of landowners, said Burt, is noise from the machines. It is against the law to alter a snowmobile’s exhaust system to make it louder, said Burt.
Clubs are also included in the state association’s insurance policy, which covers all the trails that clubs have permission to use.
Snowmobiling is fun for all ages, Burt said.
“There are guys out there who can’t walk but they love riding snowmobiles,” Burt said, adding the ages can range from 14 to 90.
Children ages 14 to 17 must take a snowmobile safety course, offered through the state Office of Parks and Recreation, in order to legally operate a snowmobile without adult supervision.
For Heider, the camaraderie of the sport and the draw of the outdoors are alluring.
Heider considers the sport a family activity, pointing to a snowmobile she takes her grandchildren on. She also takes to the trails with her husband, Dave, and they have been known to leave at 7 a.m. and return at 11 p.m.
“You stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner or visit a friend,” Heider said, adding that heated handlebars and proper gear keep the driver warm all day.
Burt points to the solitude that one finds atop the snowmobile.
“Snowmobiling is the most fun you can have with friends while you’re alone,” Burt said, explaining that the helmet allows the snowmobiler to “get a lot of thinking” done while riding.
Burt also points to the breathtaking views that he says can be found from points that no car can reach.
Cortland County has four clubs that have trails solely within the county. In total, nine clubs have trails that extend into the county. From these trails the rider can connect to the vast network of trails statewide, leading as far north as Canada.
Another positive aspect of snowmobiling is the draw for local businesses, Heider said. Whether it be gas stations or restaurants, local businesses profit from the activity, she said.
Frequently snowmobilers will make certain restaurants or ski resorts their destinations or a stop along their route to another destination.
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