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Hook and bullet club - Snowmobile season over?

The end of the 2004-2005 snowmobile season is now upon us. At least for trails, anyway. Officially Minnesota snowmobile trails are open from December 1 until March 31 each year since that’s the timeline most landowner permits allow for trail usage. With all the snow we had this winter, there’s no doubt some of the trails will continue to be rideable past March 31, but as far as grooming goes, it’s time to pull the plug.As the Ely Igloo Club’s trail administrator for the Tomahawk Trail, I thought the past season was one of the better ones with a good group of operators and mechanics keeping our equipment on the trails. Like any club, we have our moments when old equipment breaks down and we struggle to make things happen with what we have left. But just because the grooming work is done for the year doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. We now need to take our equipment into the shop and service it so it’s ready to go for next year. There are bridges in need of repair and a massive amount of branches that need to be cut to keep our tractors from being covered in sap after each grooming run. And we will continue to raise funds to pay our bills and hope we can find ways to update our equipment down the road. For riders, this season had to rank right up there. I get a number of phone calls from snowmobilers, usually people asking what the trail conditions are like, but once in a great while someone calls to say thank you. From all accounts, this winter was one of the best for trail conditions in northeastern Minnesota.My thanks go to the businesses that support the Igloo Club, to the volunteers who make the club go and to the groomer operators for working with me again this winter. With that out of the way, let’s remember there is still some prime riding to be had. If you put your snowmobile away when the trails start to melt, you are missing out on another level of riding. Each year we turn heads as we load up our sleds in late March and early April and head to the lakes for spring riding. While normal people are pulling bikes out of the garage, we’re trailering to Burntside, Birch or Lake Vermilion. This is not for everyone, especially those nervous about changing ice conditions. But we’re not looking to push the limit and see how much open water we can skip across. We’re looking to dress lightly, enjoy a sun-filled day and cruise around the lakes while the ice is still good and the scenery is spectacular. We get off the staked lake trails and take in the bays and zoom around the islands, enjoying the last of what winter has to offer. There has to be some common sense in this type of riding and that means knowing where the current is strong and staying away from those areas or at the very least speeding up for them. We’ll pull into the popular skipping spots and watch the show as sleds with paddle tracks perform maneuvers that should only be done on a Jet-Ski. In the past we’ve even brought along a barbecue grill and thrown some brats on to really make a day of it. With the 30-plus inches of ice still on most lakes, I would predict there will be some very nice spring riding yet this year. It’s not for everyone but for those who can’t bear to put their sleds away for the year, it’s something you might want to try. And the best part? No grooming is required.

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