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Letter: Snowmobilers, know before you go

To the editor: 

Although much of Wisconsin has experienced colder temperatures and accumulating snow, the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs reminds snowmobilers many — if not most — trails are not open.

Before a trail can be opened, the ground under the snow needs to be frozen to ensure trails crossing wet areas are safe. In agricultural areas, adequate snow is necessary to protect the ground and crops the trail travels over.

To ensure you know which trails are open in your community, go to at awsc.org or travelwisconsin.com/snowreport/snowmobile for the latest information.

After trails are opened, be aware as early season riding conditions magnify possible hazards under the snow. Snowmobilers should always ride with caution and never ride on trails crossing lakes or rivers that are not marked by the local snowmobile club.

The AWSC consists of over 610 snowmobile clubs from every county. Community-based clubs and their 41,000-plus volunteer members are solely responsible for developing and maintaining over 24,000 miles of public snowmobile trails. Club members brush, clear, sign, and prepare the trails, along with grooming them to ensure they are smooth and safe. Annually, these volunteers work many hours in partnership with dozens of gracious landowners to ensure trail access, as most trails are on private property.

Without the support of thousands of landowners, the trail system would not exist. Thus, riding on closed trails or traveling off a marked trail is not only dangerous, it's trespassing.

Wisconsin's snowmobile program is administered by the Department of Natural Resources but unique in that it is a user-funded program. In short, snowmobilers provide the funds — through sled registrations and trail pass fees — to create, maintain, and sustain the largest public trail system in the nation. Additional funds come from gas tax monies snowmobilers generate. These user-generated funds help reimburse local clubs for some of the expenses they incur.

The season is here, so make sure your snowmobile has a current registration and a 2018-2019 Wisconsin Trail Pass. For information, go to gowild.wi.gov.

Snowmobiling is not only fun, it provides millions of dollars that fuel Wisconsin's winter economic engine. For more information or to join a local club, visit awsc.org.

Don Hamilton, DeForest, Wis.; Tom Lubich, Prescott

Don Hamilton is the AWSC coordinator, and Tom Lubich is president of the Pierce County Snowmobile Council.