December 18, 2013
Snowmobile season starts today
Today is the start of snowmobile season in Cortland County and clubs and riders are ready to hit the trails.
Kevin Forney is a retired Army colonel and the public relations officer for the Seven Valley Snow Goers, the largest of the snowmobile clubs in Cortland County responsible for maintaining most of the State Corridor Trail C5 which covers Virgil, Truxton, Marathon, Preble, Homer and extends well into surrounding counties.
Forney said getting prepared for the next four months begins with posting signs for riders weeks before snowmobile season officially begins — not an easy task considering the C5 corridor trail covers roughly 38 miles of private property and wooded area in Cortland County alone.
“We have a standard set of signs just like on the highway,” Forney said. “New York state pays us to maintain these trails (and) we have to mark them with the appropriate signage.”
He added it is the dedicated club members who get together before, during and after the season to maintain the trails for thousands of snowmobilers traveling across Central New York during the winter months.
“On average, we could have 2,000 to 4,000 snowmobiles come through Cortland County,” Forney said, “You see people that will start out at Weedsport (Cayuga County) and we see them at Hobeau’s,” a bar and restaurant in Homer.
There is no official marketing effort labeling Cortland County as a snowmobile destination, but Forney said there is no shortage of visitors to the area who often boost the local economy.
He added this happens not only through registration fees but through people from as far away as Long Island and Pennsylvania who use Cortland as an access point for the multiple trails that wind their way through Central New York.
“Most people will go ride for a couple hours they’ll stop, eat, get warmed up,” Forney said. “It’s not unusual to ride 150 miles in a day.”
“At the Homer Sunoco station on 281 and Route 90 ... they’ll fuel up 500 sleds in a weekend,” Forney added, “and of course they’re staying in the local hotels. For Cortland County, this is a big money thing.”
Outside of making sure trails are safe for riders, Forney said another important aspect is building good rapport with property owners who let riders access their land between destinations.
“We have to respect the landowners,” Forney said. “If it wasn’t for the landowners that let us use the land, we’re out of business.”
While the Snow Goers make a concentrated effort to minimize their impact on private property by clearly marking trails and picking up litter, noise is something the club — and local law enforcement — have been working to keep to a minimum.
The main problem, Forney said, is after-market purchases, or modifications to a snowmobile’s exhaust system to make them louder, and he added not only are they annoying and unnecessary, they have the potential to ruin the club’s reputation so he always advises against them.
“We discourage the after-market purchases,” Forney said. “If you’re a landowner ... the last thing you want is five kids at 2 in the morning going through our trail network waking people up, so we always discourage anyone who gets a (louder exhaust) pipe.”
He added recent upgrades in technology have helped manufacturers make quieter snowmobiles and a majority of riders are considerate and are on vehicles that are not a problem for landowners.
As someone who has been riding trails since he was 7 years old, Forney said he plans to register two of his own snowmobiles to use this season. He added the Snow Goers are prepared for another season of enjoying their favorite winter sport and encourages people to join the club and to become part of what’s slowly changed from a hobby to an annual tradition.
“This is something we want to keep doing for years and pass on to our families,” Forney said.
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