Thoughts for the Snowmobile Season
Snowmobilers, just like skiers, are eager to get back on the trails this winter, after having their spring snowmobile season cut short last March.
Although changes may not be as apparent as within the ski industry, there will certainly be some adjustments to get used to. For example, in the pre COVID days, if you wanted to head out for a day of riding, doing so would
typically include a stop for lunch or a snack at a local eatery along the trail. Although that may still be an option depending on where you choose to ride, things may be a bit more limited when you arrive.
Additional changes may not be quite as obvious. Some major fundraising events have been canceled, on both the state and regional level, which eventually means lost revenue for many small organizations. How will that revenue be made up? Will membership revenue take a hit as well? Only time will tell for sure.
Join a Club … They Need You!
Snowmobile registration takes place at the state level. These monies help fund clubs through “aid” grants. Club members receive a $30 discount on registering their sleds for being a club member. The discount is applied to the registrations at a State of New Hampshire OHRV Registration agent. Prior to registering with an OHRV agent, resident and non-resident riders need to obtain a NHSA Club membership voucher. A voucher can be obtained from a local club or the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association Club membership website, www.nhsa.com.
Guided Tours & Rentals
If you don’t already own a snowmobile, renting can be a good way to experience the adventure. There are a number of businesses in the Valley that offer guided tours by snowmobile or allow you to rent your own. Being prepared is key, and these outfitters will make sure you have all the information you need to experience snowmobiling safely.
Remember to ride responsibly, dress for the elements, and plan for the ride ahead with a mapped route. Never ride off-trail unless an area is designated, or you have written landowner permission.
If you come across a groomer, pull off of the trail and let them by. It’s much easier for you to maneuver than them. Remember, many groomers are VOLUNTEERS!
Renting a Snowmobile
The outfitters supply everything you need, including the sleds, warm clothes and instructions to make your expedition a memorable one. With so many miles of trails to explore, an experienced guide can lead you to their secret spots with the coolest views. Pay attention to restrictions currently in effect due to COVID-19. Check with specific tour guide operators.
Snowmobile Tours and Rentals
Northeast Snowmobile & ATV Rentals
Gorham, NH / Fryeburg, ME
www.northeastsnowmobile.com • (800) 458-1838
Northern Extremes /Bear Notch Snowmobile Rentals,
www.nxtsnow.com • (603) 374-6000
Northern Extremes /Mt Washington Snowmobile Rentals
Bretton Woods, NH
www.nxtsnow.com • (603) 374-6000
New Hampshire Snowmobile Association (NHSA)
Executive Director, Dan Gould
The following was taken with permission from Sno-Traveler Magazine, The official publication of the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association
Last thing I remember was an abrupt cancellation of a snowmobile trip in late March. All of a sudden, it’s September. It’s a blur, for sure. That said, I want to recap some important items that have taken place over the past few months.
Starting off, I want to congratulate all the clubs in their efforts to quickly pivot. While snowmobiling is a big part of our lives, there are plenty of other priorities that need immediate attention. Despite being torn in multiple directions, club volunteers continue to march forward in expectation of a stellar winter.
Club Fundraising Woes
The single biggest fundraiser of the year was canceled. About 30 percent of the clubs depend on income from the NHSA Grass Drags to pay for grooming and operations. It’s safe to say there isn’t a single club that hasn’t suffered financial losses due to canceled fundraisers. Take a dive in the pages of club news for insight.
A wise man once said, “Groomers run on diesel, gas, parts, and service. Also known as cash.”
Yes, it takes cash to keep the trails open. Join your club early, consider supporting multiple clubs with memberships and donations. The clubs volunteer their time, but need resources to carry out the mission. Remember, your registration fees directly translate into quality trails. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The NHSA is also exploring possible grants, but nothing is guaranteed. Even if some funding might be available, it will not make the clubs whole.
Support a White Mountain regional Club
Ossipee Valley Snowmobile Club
West Ossipee, NH • www.ovsc.net
Scrub Oak Scramblers
Madison, NH • www.sossc.com
Snoward Bound Snowmobile Club
E. Conway, NH • www.snowardbound.com
Mountain Meadow Riders
N. Conway, NH • www.mountainmeadowriders.com
Burnt Meadow Snowmobile Club
Brownfield, ME • www.burntmeadowsc.org
White Mountain Trail Club
Bartlett, NH • www.whitemountaintrailclub.com
Presidential Range Riders
Gorham, NH • www.presidentialrangeriders.org
White Mountain Ridge Runners
Berlin, NH • www.whitemtridgerunners.com
Twin Mountain Snowmobile Club
Twin Mountain, NH • www.twinmtnsnowmobile.org
White Mountain Snowmobile Club
Lincoln, NH • www.whitemtsnowmobileclub.org
2021 NHSA Mega Super Raffle
There is a fundraiser that will not only continue, but has been enhanced in dramatic fashion. The Super Raffle prizes have doubled: two sleds, two trailers, and two weekend vacations. And all of them generously donated, with total proceeds going directly to participating clubs. The more tickets you buy, the more cash they raise, and the better chance of you winning. Either way, we all win. $20 donation per ticket. Drawing is February 12, 2021. Got to www.nhsa.com for more information.
Obviously, the NHSA Board of Directors and committees have been meeting virtually for months, with great success. Many non-profits, like ours, have been given state authority to meet and continue business virtually. However, we need to change our bylaws to ensure we can continue operating in such a manner. Legal counsel was hired to assist the association in redrafting the bylaws to meet the demands of a changing universe. That draft is posted at nhsa.com for our members to review.
New Membership Website
Joining a club online is now as easy as ordering a pair of winter socks. It’s been a longtime in the making, but the new club membership website is up and running. The clean interface is built for phone, tablet, or computer. Everything about it is designed to simplify the process, including automatically emailing a membership voucher after completing the transaction.
The annual NHSA Ride-In for Easterseals Camp Sno-Mo is going virtual. While details are still being groomed, and fresh ideas sought, it’s safe to say that club support of the kids marches on—regardless. Details will be coming.
The NHSA officers, Board of Directors, and clubs need to be congratulated for their leadership through all this. There was a flood of decisions and actions that had to be made and will continue to be made, at all levels of snowmobiling. None are taken lightly. President Chris Runnals, vice president Tom Willand, treasurer Steve Kiander, secretary Lisa Charrette, and past president Lucy Ford have their hands full with budget adjustments, meeting logistics, bylaw drafts, event considerations, funding resources, office infrastructure, health mandates, membership needs, and concern for family and friends.
Snowmobiling is not a necessity of life, but it will certainly give us an escape from some unpleasant realities when the snow flies. We need to thank everyone who makes that possible.
Smartphone App - Trails & Services Map
NH Snowmobile Trails 2020/21 Season • (iOS/Android, $4.99) • www.nhsa.com
The New Hampshire Snowmobile Association (NHSA) has relaunched its mobile trail map app, which can help snowmobile drivers navigate the regional trail system. It consists of two offerings: an interactive web map and a mobile map app that can be downloaded to devices. The app gives you access to the following OFFLINE features, anywhere, anytime, even in areas without cell coverage:
- Track your trips by leaving breadcrumbs for easier backtracking; get statistics on your average speed and distance traveled
- Pinpoint your exact location with mobile GPS or desktop location services
- Displays points of interest (POI or services): fuel, parking, clubhouse, scenic vistas
- Geographic search, as well as pan and zoom functionality
- Trail status: what’s open, what’s closed
- Easy location-sharing with friends with cell service
Check www.nhsa.com for additional information.
Interactive Trail map: www.nhsa.evtrails.com
Chris Gamache, NH Bureau of Trails
On May 1, the cost of a snowmobile registration increased. This was due to legislative changes in 2019, and those changes were requested by the clubs, NHSA, Trails Bureau, and Fish and Game. The majority of the increase was necessary due to the increasing costs of maintaining snowmobile trails in the winter. Trail groomers have increased in cost more than 250 percent over the past 20 years—and so have all the associated costs (repairs, parts, etc.).
To keep the pledge we made to the clubs and the legislature, the hourly grooming rates will be increasing by 45 percent for this upcoming snowmobile season.
As part of the Trails Bureau’s testimony during the legislative hearings about the registration increase, we committed to increasing the hourly rate at which groomers are reimbursed. The goal was to almost double the hourly rate for groomers; however, when the registration increase passed, it was done so as a phased approach and only a partial registration fee increase was approved for this year. As such, the financial goal the clubs have requested will not be reached until the winter of 2023/2024 (if we have a good snow year).
To keep the pledge we made to the clubs and the legislature, the hourly grooming rates will be increasing by 45 percent for this upcoming snowmobile season. Clubs will see the new hourly figures as part of their winter trail grooming grant applications, which will be sent out in September. The increases are based on not increasing the overall approved hours for clubs, based on last season’s approved hours, but just on increasing the amount we reimburse per hour of groomer use. The Grant In Aid (GIA) program, currently, reimburses clubs for 70 percent of the hourly cost to operate trail grooming equipment. The clubs are responsible for covering the other 30 percent of that hourly cost. As part of this overall concept, the future plan is that the GIA program may not assist with the purchase of trail groomers in the future. This concept has not been finalized and will not be for another three years, but it is the basic rationale used to justify the increase in grooming hourly rates.
NH Snowmobile Facts
New Hampshire uses a successful public/private partnership to provide 7,000 miles of snowmobile trails.
Last winter, (2018/19) there were over 28,000 hours of club trail grooming.
During 2018/19, there were 43,960 registered snowmobiles in NH.
Clubs from around the state have raised over $3.38 million for Easterseals. The NHSA Ride-In was initiated in 1972 and continues to fund Camp Sno-Mo to create life-changing experiences for campers, ages 11-21, with disabilities and special needs.
Your Snowmobile Registration Fees at Work
Registration fees in New Hampshire are split between two state agencies, NH Fish and Game and the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development, Division of Parks and Recreation’s Bureau of Trails. In addition, $1 from each registration goes into the Fish and Game Search and Rescue Fund; $3 from each registration goes to the registration agent; and $2 from each registration goes to the vendor of the electronic registration system.
The bureau is currently evaluating whether a one-time/one-season amendment to its GIA rules may be justified for this winter, due to the loss of fundraising revenues clubs work for during the year. These clubs’ funds are used to match the GIA program and make necessary payments for the club (insurance, groomer payments, clubhouse taxes, etc.). IF we go forward with a change, it will likely be to reimburse clubs 80 percent of groomer hourly costs for this winter only! This will be determined this fall.
Bridge maintenance has been a big topic over the past few years, and a lot more so over the last few months. Bridges are typically the most significant structures that we have on the trail system. When snowmobilers need and use them, they are usually covered in snow and are just part of the trails. Clubs need to be assessing their bridges prior to snowfall and make sure decking, railings, and signage are ready for the upcoming riding season. It is pretty common for us to find bridges with years’ worth of pine needles and leaves lying on top of them. Bridges are an annual maintenance item, like water bars and other features on the trail.
The newest part is that all bridge locations will need to have engineered site plans for where the bridges will be placed. These are typically bank-to-bank bridges with no wetland or stream impacts, but the new engineering site plans will be expensive and time-consuming.
Bridges will be a major training topic in the future, and it is anticipated that bridge replacement will be the most significant cost to the trails program (after groomers) in the future. For instance, the US Forest Service has implemented a new bridge program on all of the National Forests, and this includes the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF). All bridges on the snowmobile system (and their roads) must be built to a standard design specification, which is not a new thing. The newest part is that all bridge locations will need to have engineered site plans for where the bridges will be placed. These are typically bank-to-bank bridges with no wetland or stream impacts, but the new engineering site plans will be expensive and time-consuming. The WMNF does not have the ability to amend any of these requirements, and the first few bridges we are running through this process are showing us the anticipated costs. A 50-foot bridge will likely cost $35,000 in materials and $10,000 in engineering site work. These are hefty prices; we do have to meet safety and weight requirements for structures.
Now is the time for riders to get more active and passionate about their sport. Don’t forget that it is a small group of people that make everything happen—and if all you want to do is get on a sled and ride, someday, this may all go away. Stay involved, stay passionate. Stay safe and stay committed to an amazing family and friend activity. Happy trails!
Editor’s note: Chris Gamache will be stepping down from his post as chief of the Bureau of Trails, a position he has held since 2001.
Additional Resources and Information
Weekly trail conditions report
The New Hampshire Snowmobile Association
The Maine Snowmobile Association
New England Snow Depth Map
NH Snowmobile Interactive Map and Phone App