EDITORS NOTE: This Breaking Trail column was penned in June for the October issue of Snow Goer magazine, but it’s still fun to look back on the great spring riding we had earlier this year. Better yet, we’ve got friends who are already riding in the mountain states, where as much as 53 inches has fallen in some areas in the last two week. You know us: the term “Bring On The Snow” it our motto!
Sitting sidesaddle on my snowmobile under the semi-protective branches of a tall pine tree, I tucked my goggles inside of my jacket to shelter them from the heavy falling snow as I watched the weather, in awe.
If this particular storm had dropped rain in the summer, people would have used words like “monsoon” and “downpour” to describe the conditions at the time. Thankfully, there were no winds to aid the blinding capabilities of this snowfall. Instead, it was coming straight down, and hard. It was almost dizzying to watch, and looked like we were watching the scene in fast-forward mode. One of my riding buddies left his MX Z unprotected on the edge of the trail, and it was amazing how quickly the black seat and yellow hood disappeared in the sea of white. Within five minutes, the snowmobile became a white blob with no distinguishable color showing, and the snow wasn’t stopping anytime soon.
I’d been in white-outs before, and I had been blessed to ride in some really spectacular powder over the years, particularly out west. But this snow storm in Northern Minnesota was something special, and it was taking a good snowmobiling area and setting it up for weeks of great riding ahead.
The real kicker? It was all happening on April 13.
Remember April? I know, now that the long, warm summer has taken control of our lives, sometimes it’s easy to forget about the winter that hung around and the spring that didn’t want to show up in much of the Snowbelt last season. Neighbors and relatives whined and complained, the weather watchers on TV apologetically delivered one cold-and-wet forecast after another, and our motorcycle riding brethren lamented the late start to their season. But for those who got out and enjoyed the late snow that fell in many parts of the North American Snowbelt last April, it was a much needed and appreciated boost of snowmobiling adrenaline.
Some people in the mountain states and the far north are used to April riding opportunities.
But this year, Mother Nature seemed determined to make up for the cruddy winter of 2011-12 and the late start to 2012-13.
During the last week of April, we received reports of people snowmobiling in locations all over the Upper Midwest and Northeast. They weren’t alone. Every member of our staff got out for multiple late-season blasts, and Managing Editor Andy Swanson added almost 1,000 miles in April to his already impressive mileage total. During the month, our Facebook page lit up with riders posting photos or telling riding stories from New Hampshire and Maine, Ontario and Michigan, Wisconsin and Saskatchewan, the Dakotas and beyond. Many riding areas that didn’t have snow on January 25 were enjoying great conditions on April 25.
Not everybody had the chance to enjoy the late season riding. Many trails (particularly those that cross private property) close on March 31, but forest roads and select trails that only crossed public land are often still legal to ride as long as there’s snow.
And this past winter, that was a mighty long time. Mother Nature may not always drop the snow right where we want it, and right when we want it, but an enthusiastic snowmobiler with a gassed-up tow vehicle can sometimes find it later than you might expect.
Back on that April 13 afternoon, we tried to wait out the heaviest snowfall under the limited shelter that the pine tree was providing, but the storm was unrelenting. When the visibility improved a bit, we ventured on and enjoyed the very best that snowmobiling has to offer. Our snowmobiles didn’t know that they should be parked by now — instead, they just helped us make new paths through the fresh snow.