Snow sports enthusiasts hope to use the trails again soon but more snow firstWhile some locals saw last weekend’s snowfall as a reminder that winter is far from over, snow sports enthusiasts saw it as a positive sign they would soon be able to hit the trails again. Preparations are now being made to local trails in hopes of snowmobile riders and cross-country skiers being able to make up for lost time during an unseasonably dry winter.
By: By Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
While some locals saw last weekend’s snowfall as a reminder that winter is far from over, snow sports enthusiasts saw it as a positive sign they would soon be able to hit the trails again.
Preparations are now being made to local trails in hopes of snowmobile riders and cross-country skiers being able to make up for lost time during an unseasonably dry winter.
“I’m pretty pumped up about it. I’m ready to get these trails ready to go,” said Shawn Cole, Snowmobile North Dakota’s trail coordinator for the Sheyenne Valley Trail.
The trail, which spans more than 300 miles across Barnes, Dickey, LaMoure, Ransom and Stutsman counties, is one of 13 North Dakota snowmobile trails that has been closed all season due to lack of snow.
According to Keri Wanner, program manager for Snowmobile North Dakota, the only trail currently open is the Red River North Trail in Pembina and Walsh counties.
“It’s really just a matter of getting those trails ready to go, which we’re hoping to open a few more up very soon,” she said.
Snowmobile North Dakota is a non-profit organization contracted by the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department to manage the state’s snowmobile trail system.
The state requires 4 inches of snow depth on a trail before it can be opened up.
“It has to be groomed by our equipment first before totaling 4 inches or more. Plus, the snow has to be pretty well-packed,” Wanner said.
Cole said that while the 7 inches of snow Jamestown received last weekend seems like it would be enough to open up a trail, that is not the case.
“We’re hoping to get a bit more, and if the wind is not too bad, I have my crew fueled and ready to groom those trails as soon as possible,” he said.
Gene Leininger is president of the Jim River Drift Skippers, a club based out of Jamestown that is affiliated with Snowmobile North Dakota and the Sheyenne Valley Trail.
“If the snow is too fluffy it’s very difficult to pack it, especially with the heavy machines that groom these trails,” he said.
Two state-owned machines called tuckers are used to groom the Sheyenne Valley Trail.
Doug Hogan, director of the Jamestown Parks and Recreation Department, has suffered the same issue with the 10 miles of cross-country skiing trails in Jamestown.
“We have been ready to prepare these trails since November, there just hasn’t been enough consistent snow,” he said. “You may have a foot of snow in one spot and barely any snow in another.”
There are no state requirements for the amount of snow on cross-country skiing trails, but Hogan said it will probably take several more inches of snow before he plans to get out and test the trails.
“Another 8 to 10 inches and I might be able to get out there late this week or this weekend to get the trails ready,” he said.
Local businesses that sell snow sports equipment have not minded the recent increase in snowfall.
R&B Motorsports in Jamestown has seen a small spike in sales of snowmobile and ATV equipment.
“These past couple days we’ve seen more people coming in to get snow blades, sleds and plows,” said Cordell Lehr, manager of R&B.
He said parts and accessories especially have been selling well.
Gun & Reel Sports Inc. in Jamestown has noticed a similar trend.
“We’ve sold some — a few snowmobiles, but mostly parts like blades and we’ve sold some oil too. Also some helmets and snow gear,” said Gary Docktor, co-owner of Gun & Reel.
Docktor said that while there has been a significant decrease in snowmobile sales overall since last year, he’s hopeful things will start to level out.
“With the amount of snow last year, we sold every snowmobile we had,” he said. “But even though there’s not as much snow this year locally, we’ll still sell to those who travel out to the mountains for the snow.”
Wanner and Hogan said opening up their respective trails would heavily depend on today’s snowfall.
“We’re going to have to wait and see how much snow it brings,” Wanner said.
The 10 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails are located at Hillcrest Golf Course in Jamestown. Once the trails are opened, cross-country skis are available for rent at the Hillcrest Pro Shop from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
For more information on the Sheyenne Valley Trail or any of the state’s 14 snowmobile trails, visit www.snowmobilend.org.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com