MARQUETTE - While some relish the significant lack of snow in the Upper Peninsula this winter, avid snowmobile enthusiasts search the skies in hopes of enough snowfall to just get them on the trails.
In certain areas of the U.P., snowmobilers have been able to ride, though trail conditions have been relatively poor.
"Right now we do have snow, but it's very regionalized," said Ron Yesney, recreation specialist for the Western U.P. "Most of the U.P. we are not grooming. Trails are open, but with trails not being in good conditions, we're not attracting the tourism for snowmobiling that we usually would."
Shown is a portion of snowmobile trail near the Carp River in the city of Marquette Thursday. This section of trail below the US 41 Carp River bridge was shielded from snow. The light dusting of snow, which fell Thursday, can be seen. Due to the lack of snowfall, this and other Upper Peninsula snowmobile trails have not been groomed this season. (Journal photo by Abbey Hauswirth)
Yesney said that many people who booked snowmobile trips months in advance, expecting snow, have cancelled, and that sales of permits are down.
Bill Manson, executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile Association, echoed Yesney's comments, stating that between last year and this year, 30,000 snowmobilers throughout Michigan did not re-register their sleds.
The money spent on permits goes directly toward funding DNR law enforcement on the trails and maintaining and grooming the trails. Due to the lack of permit purchases, DNR funding has been cut down.
"With almost no snow, no one wants to buy permits," Manson said. "Most of those sleds are still stored away in barns or sheds."
Yesney said although last year was not much better, they were, at the very least, grooming the trails at this point. He noted that this is the latest the DNR has put off grooming the trails in the past 10 years.
He added that Trail Eight, which connects the eastern U.P. to the western U.P., is one of the most popular trails in the area however, is bare right now. The recent melt-off eliminated the base, so although there is snow, it's not enough to ride.
Recent weather reports are calling for "arctic blasts" this weekend, which is leaving the few snowmobilers who did not pack away their sleds, hoping that they may still be able to take to the trails.
As always, Yesney and Manson both emphasized that there are several factors that snowmobilers need to keep in mind while riding.
"Be extra cautious in low snow conditions," Yesney said. "Use the internet and call ahead to make sure the community that you're heading toward has snow."
Snowmobilers should also travel at safe speeds, remember there is zero tolerance for drinking and operating a snowmobile, always travel on the far right side and be conscientious of fellow snowmobilers, families and young people who also use the trails.
Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.