Where would snowmobilers be without clubs?

I can't believe it's the beginning of February and we've barely had any snow.  Not only that but it's supposed to be almost 50 degrees outside today.  Given those conditions, what could I possibly write in a snowmobile column.
     It's a great time to talk about local snowmobile clubs.  They don't need snow to keep busy.
     Those of you who don't belong to a club are probably ready to skip this column. 
Please don't. Ask yourself this question.  "Where would I ride if it weren't for the clubs?"  The answer.  Not far.
     I joined a club three years ago when I first started snowmobiling.  Why did I join?  Quite simply, all the people I rode with were members of the club.  It was a social thing.  I could get together with a group with a common interest.
     In those three years, I've learned a great deal about the club's purpose.  The members of a club come together to give support and show appreciation for snowmobiling.
     These clubs are actually run like a business.  Each club has elected officers and a board of directors.  The club itself designates members to be responsible for certain tasks.  For example, our club has trail masters.  These people are responsible for communicating with landowners, creating and marking new trails, maintaining old trails, and any bridge work in their area.  Groups of people volunteer to get this work done when you are ready to ride.  These people are important to our sport.  Landowners aren't going to take it upon themselves to cut a trail so that a snowmobile can ride on their land.  They also aren't going to build a bridge so that we can get across a creek or put up a sign indicating a hazard.  The members of the clubs obtain permission from the landowners to place a trail on their land.  We do the work.  We incur the expense.  We also appreciate the landowner and respect their property.  I ask that you do the same.
     The work doesn't stop when the snow flies.  The same people that created the trails now have to groom them.  The clubs incur the expense of buying a grooming machine.  Some clubs use snowmobiles and pull a "drag" behind to smooth the snow.  Other clubs have purchased large grooming machines to pull a larger drag.  These machines are  more effective in grooming the snow and generally  require wider trails.
     The Fingerlakes Trail Runners purchased a large grooming machine this year for trail maintenance.  A great deal of work and expense went into preparing this groomer to meet state regulations and widening the trails so this machine could travel our trail system.
     I've spent a great deal of this column on the highway system that the clubs have created for members and non-members to use.  There are other things that a club does.  Clubs share information on different issues that we face.  A big concern now is the governments, both at the state and federal level, are trying to ban snowmobiles from state and national parks.  The more members the clubs have the louder our voice is heard in Albany.  Clubs also hold safety clinics to certify younger snowmobilers.  They help out in times of emergency, looking for a lost skier or rescuing an injured snowmobiler.  Clubs put together trail rides on a weekly basis as well as social events and fundraisers.  Snowmobilers in the United States and Canada last year raised $3.3 million dollars for charities.  Did you also know,  New York State has 8,142 miles of trails that are maintained by state and local clubs.  As of the end of 2001 there were 146,662 snowmobiles registered in NY State, falling in at number 4 behind Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  NY State has over 170 snowmobile clubs with almost 20,000 members.
     Are you a member of a club?  If not, I strongly encourage you to join.  There are four clubs in Cayuga County.  They are Cato Trail Blazers, Weedsport Winter Wanderers, Poor Folks Snowmobile Club in Sterling and, and Fingerlakes Trail Runners in Southern Cayuga County.  These clubs are non-profit and volunteer driven.  The cost to join is minimal.  By joining, you show support and appreciation for the work the club does that allows you to enjoy a safe ride.  Don't feel you have to participate in all or any of the work details if you are a member.  We realize everyone has restrictions on their time.  We'd still like you to join.  Find out what's going on in the snowmobiling community.  Take part in the social activities.  Plus, there's strength in numbers.  If you decide not to join, I still encourage you to donate whenever possible to the club or clubs that maintain the trails you are riding.  Look for donation boxes at the locations you frequent on snowmobiles.  We don't charge a fee to ride on these trails like other places;  Old Forge for example, makes you buy a trail pass ride.  In Ontario, a snowmobiler pays $130 a year for a trail pass and a percentage gets passed to the clubs.  We incur many of the same expenses yet don't force you to pay.  Please, join a club or donate whenever possible.  Help us maintain a safe riding environment for all to enjoy.
     If you would like to join a club or donate, you may contact the club directly or email me by visiting our website
www.fingerlakestrailrunners.comI will be able to give you a direct contact for each club.

Cato Trail Blazers, PO Box 192, Cato, NY 13033
Fingerlakes Trail Runners, PO Box 177, Moravia, NY 13118
Poor Folks Snowmobile Club, 1961 Andrews Road, Sterling, NY 13156
Weedsport Winter Wanderers, Inc., PO Box 748, Weedsport, NY 13166

*This article was written by
Amy Ward